As more and more hybrid and electric vehicles are being sold, the amount of lithium being mined is increasing rapidly. Are you aware lithium the price of lithium has more than tripled in the last three years – due to increased demand? Or, that our increased demand for smartphones, laptops and electronic vehicles has caused a mineral crisis? Companies are mining globally for the minerals needed to produce batteries, while leaving devastating effects on the environment.
The Electronic Boom:
In 2013 we learned that lithium was one of the elements, along with hydrogen and helium that were created during the big bang. Lithium is the third element on the periodic table and is extremely reactive, that is why it is not found alone in nature. Instead, it is found in salt flats, high altitude lakes and in other minerals such as petalite. Lithium is the lightest known metal that is why its use in batteries is critical. The environmental effects caused by lithium mining are substantial. Here are some additional facts on the environmental costs of lithium.
- It takes approximately 500,000 gallons of fresh water to produce one ton of lithium.
- Toxic chemicals such as hydrochloric acid leak from the evaporation pools into the water supply.
- Nevada found impacts on fish as far as 150 miles downstream from a lithium processing operation.
- In Tibet thousands of fish have been found dead in the rivers surrounding lithium salt flats. In 2013, the government closed the mining and the fish stopped dying. But, in 2016 they resumed mining and thousands of fish were found floating dead in the rivers. It was the third such incident in seven years in an area which has seen a sharp rise in mining activity,
- Lithium-ion batteries, have the highest potential for environmental impacts. One study cited negative consequences like mining, global warming, environmental pollution and human health impacts.
- Lithium mining destroys the water supply, polluted the earth and local wells, as well as degrades the landscape.
- The battery of a Tesla Model S has about 12 kilograms of lithium in it.
How can I make an impact:
Tier 1: Global Goodness
- The biggest opportunity in reducing your consumption of lithium, is to reduce your consumption of electronic goods..
- Do your research. Write down the pros and cons of buying certain electronics or an electronic vehicle. Know what you are buying and research how to properly discard of your items when they are no longer needed.
Tier 2: Planet Protector
- All of Action 1
- Recycle, recycle, recycle. Read our 100+ Ways on batteries to learn the proper way to recycle lithium batteries.
- Tell Congress to increase regulations on lithium mining. Many small mining companies are mining illegally, without environmental regulations. Lobby Congress to make the necessary changes.
Tier 3: Earth Angel
- All of Action 1 & 2
- Support not for profits that are working to mitigate the effects of lithium mining on the environment.
- Many people in the local communities where lithium is being mined are protesting against big business exploiting their land, and ruining their water supplies. Join the cause.