To find out what lithium extraction means for Latin America, Ernesto Picco embarked on a journey from the desert hostilities and recorded his discoveries in his book Lithium Chronicles: South America in Dispute for the Future of Global Energy.
His search took him through Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia, where he had conversations not only with locals but also with officials, scientists, and business people.
Is this just due to a global energy transition strategy?
Cover of the book “Chronicles of Lithium” by Ernesto Picco
Precisely in response to this search for a transition to clean sources, the salt flats, which until recently were completely forgotten, are now the scene of an opportunity in a kind of geopolitical game between the great powers. Therefore, there is growing interest from governments to harness lithium before it is replaced or disappears, whichever comes first.
It is not a book for experts but is intended to help everyone understand what lithium is, what its function is, how it is extracted from the desert, and why it causes so much debate.
“This is a book about people. About communities defending their territories against corporate interests. About foreign companies that are ready to invest and earn millionaire numbers. “About rulers who imagine the possibility of changing the place that their countries occupy on the map of world power,” says the book that has just been taken out of the “oven”.
In this mixture of travel chronicles and journalistic research, which seeks answers to the most important questions of recent years in ecological but also social and economic terms, Picco moved towards the center of the conflict: Who will win from lithium?
It tells the story of the exploitation of this mineral, its method of extraction, its impact on the environment, which sectors receive the millions in profits from its extraction, and, above all, whether it is possible for lithium to become a key to development. from South America.
Speaking to the BBC, Picco pointed out that the price of lithium has increased 18-fold worldwide in the last 10 years alone. Its high price and the small amount of money required to extract it in Latin America, coupled with the low labor costs, permissiveness of environmental laws, and low taxation for businesses, have opened the door to several companies in the United States, South Korea, Australia, and Canada taking direct steps to these deserts and to this product.
However, there are several risks, including repeating the same mistakes of the past and relying on the extractivism of natural resources in Latin America, a process that has significantly boosted the growth of the economies of the northern part of the continent. And that ultimately led to a reduction in benefits for the people of the South.
“The true potential of this mineral, until recently quietly mined in the desert, has been discovered in the 21st century. But there are already scientists and social organizations warning that this economic transformation is a fantasy. Or, in the worst case, it could lead to an environmental and social disaster,” Picco said.
He was born in Santiago de Estero, Argentina, in 1982.
Teacher and researcher at the National University of Santiago del Estero.
He graduated with a doctorate in social sciences from the University of Buenos Aires.
He is interested in writing about political, social, and environmental issues.
He is dedicated to writing chronicles in freelance format and has published his writings in several magazines, such as Revista Anfibia, Revista Crisis, Tucumán Zeta, and Subida de Lnea.
He is the winner of the Crónicas Interiores Prize with a story about murders committed by the provincial police.
He was the coordinator of UNSE radio, which broadcasts scientific and current affairs at local and national levels.