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Political ecology of the lithium production and supply chain in northern Argentina

Authors: Melisa Escosteguy*, Instituto de Investigaciones en Energía No Convencional (INENCO), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Universidad Nacional de Salta (UNSa), Avenida Bolivia 5150, A4408FVY Salta, Argentina, Cristian Venencia, Land Matrix Initiative, Latin America Focal Point (FUNDAPAZ – INENCO), Avenida Bolivia 5150, A4408FVY Salta, Argentina, Marc Hufty, Centre for International Environmental Studies, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2A, Case postale 1672, Geneva 1, 1211, Switzerland, Christian Brannstrom, Department of Geography, MS3147, TexasA&MUniversity, CollegeStation, TX77843, USA, Lucas Seghezzo, Instituto de Investigaciones en Energía No Convencional (INENCO), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Universidad Nacional de Salta (UNSa), Avenida Bolivia 5150, A4408FVY Salta, Argentina.
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Argentina, governance, lithium, political ecology, Social Network Analysis (SNA)
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual Track 2
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Lithium is now mostly used to build batteries for vehicles and electronic devices, or for storage systems in the renewable energy sector. In the context of an overall transition from carbon-based to supposedly greener economies, lithium demand has sharply increased in the last decade and so did foreign investments in Argentina’s mining sector. It is estimated that around 10% of all global lithium reserves lie in salt flats of the “Puna” region in the provinces of Salta, Jujuy, and Catamarca of northern Argentina. The growth of the lithium sector in this region has also triggered a number of social-environmental conflicts between indigenous and peasant communities, governments, and mining companies. Conflicts are mostly related to disputes over the control of natural resources (notably water) and ancestral territories. The aim of this paper is to contribute to the study of the governance of the lithium production and supply chain in northern Argentina. All relevant stakeholders of this chain were identified, including national, provincial, regional, and local institutions, non-governmental organizations, mining companies, indigenous and peasant communities, and universities, among others. Stakeholders were mapped in a Geographic Information System (GIS) and the relationships between them were analyzed using Social Network Analysis (SNA). We discuss the lithium production and supply chain in northern Argentina in the context of the so-called “lithium triangle” that also includes salt flats in Bolivia and Chile using a political ecology approach.

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