Monday 11 February 2013

Tibet and Lithium Extraction

At the last Cafe Momo (10th Feb) I presented a synopsis of Gabriel Lafitte's article
Tibet's resource Curse which describes the issues around Lithium extraction in Tibet.  Lithium is the chief component in Lithium Ion batteries that are used in laptops, mobile devices, smart-phones etc.
The audience was greatly interested in issue and asked many question and gave comments.  I will try to document that outcome here:

How do you prolong the life of your Lithium Ion battery?  There are some good web sites that provide useful information - try Battery University. The main tip is to keep them cool,  if using your laptop off the mains then take the battery out (before booting).

What are the specific environmental issues in Tibet regarding Lithium extractionThe main issue here is the use of toxic solvents in the extraction process such as pentanol, tetrahydrofuran, cresol  isobutanol and chloroform.  The article reference above also states:

'.. Lithium enters rivers and drinking water from many industrial sources. Its toxicity has been scientifically studied in fish, other aquatic creatures and mammals. A team of Canadian and Finnish scientists have found that lithium is “potentially detrimental to the juvenile rainbow trout.” Lithium fed experimentally to rats caused developmental deformities, according to a 2004 scientific report. '

Because of some of the medical applications of Lithium (as an anti depressant) it has been suggested that it is put into drinking water.  see 

At high levels it can cause death, the following link provides some understanding of the toxicity of Lithium and

Take a look at the following links
This only a quick overview and more understanding is required here

Would similar issues be occurring in the other major producing countries (Chile and Australia)? This is possible however the issue is intensified by the fact that China is not a democracy that allows a plurality of views and a free press.  It therefore lacks the 'checks and balances'  that may bring such issues to focus.  Both Chile and Australia enjoy an independent judiciary.  Further work is required here and I welcome further comments.

All for now

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