top of page

Assistant professor, Architecture School Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Doctor in Architecture and Urban Studies

Professor at the Instituto de Ciencias Naturales Alexander von Humboldt, University of Antofagasta.

Professor and Vice Principal at the Architectural School of the Pontifical University of Chile

Doctor in Applied Science Universidad de Antofagasta
Aquaculture Engineer, Bachelor of Marine Sciences

Meeting ID: 940 7309 4480     Passcode: Lithium


Lithium can be extracted from rocks, such as pegmatites, with notable mining operations in Australia and Zimbabwe, or from brine from salt flats as is the process in Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Rock extraction is similar to traditional mining processes, unlike brine mining which is a relatively new mining industry about which we know little and which researchers such as Ingrid Garcés have called "water mining" [1].

The productive production cycle begins with the extraction project. The design of a mining project comprises people from many disciplines, including builders, architects, designers, and civil, chemical, and electrical engineers, as well as all those involved in the financial studies and legal considerations. Before the materialization of a mining project, national legislations, in most countries, impose an environmental assessment during which several possible difficulties might arise, ranging from technical issues to large-scale conflicts involving the local communities and public opinion. The assessment involves biologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, and people from other social disciplines who endeavor to minimize project impacts. Despite this, at this stage, most of the projects are rejected by the community, which shows that energy, no matter how green it is, is not free of conflicts. Ensuring the sustainability of green energy therefore means ensuring acceptance of the extraction of the raw material in the territories where it is extracted.

In a desert area like the Atacama region in Chile, the high Andean basins where the salt lakes are situated constitute a valuable resource for society. Salt lake landscapes constitute a strategic resource for other economies such as special-interest tourism, which competes with mining for the use and planning organization of the territory. The landscape, as a representation of identity and as an object of value, is protected for both national interest and for the Indigenous communities that inhabit the territory.

In this sense, our search for clean energy must be discussed in relation to these apparently "uninhabited" territories that have actually been occupied since pre-Inca times [2]. The extraction project must resolve considerations as broad as conflicts of use and conservation problems related to flora and fauna species, without forgetting the existence of unstudied microorganisms from which science can obtain more information about our life on Earth [3] and the existence of life on Mars [4].

This panel invites specialists to explain the critical connections among lithium extraction from salt flats, the challenges related to conservation strategies for the territories and their biodiversity, and the management landscape in relation to compensation and mitigation measures for mining projects in the environmental assessment system.


[1] Mauricio Lorca, Manuel Olivera Andrade, and Ingrid Garcés, “Se Instaló el Diablo en el Salar – Organizaciones Atacameñas, Agua y Minería del Litio en el Salar de Atacama,” Estudios Atacameños 69, 6. June 23, 2023.
[2] Ximena Arizaga “Salares altiplánicos de Atacama: soportes de ecologías, culturas y economías en territorios de naturaleza extrema”. En “Paisajes de la Sal en Iberoamérica. Cultura, Territorio y Patrimonio”. Moreno O. y Román E. Editores. (pp. 159-176) Editorial Instituto Juan De Herrera, España. 2021.
[3] Jorge Valdés et al., “Metal(oid)s Content in High-Andean Aquatic Systems of the Atacama Desert, Chile: Environmental Assessment of Extreme Ecosystems,” Environmental Science and Pollution Research 20. 2022.
[4] Armando Azua-Bustos et al., “Dark Microbiome and Extremely Low Organics in Atacama Fossil Delta Unveil Mars Life Detection Limits,” Nature Commununications 14, 808. 2023.

bottom of page