The environmental and human rights impacts of raw material extraction: Lithium in the High Andes, Argentina

Following the Raw Material Week in November 2023 and the provisional agreement on the Critical Raw Material Regulation, Wetlands International Europe together with Both ENDS and the EU Raw Materials Coalition have organised a session seeking an open discussion on the environmental and human rights impacts of raw materials extraction, in and around vulnerable areas.

The High Andean wetlands in Latin America are extremely fragile ecosystems that reflect their complex and unique hydrological systems. They are highly productive, veritable oases of vital importance for biodiversity and the wellbeing of local communities. Due to lithium extraction, enormous quantities of water are being lost every year and underground freshwater reserves are in danger of salinisation by coming in contact with brine.

Marius Troost of Both ENDS: "Governments are rushing to secure the materials and resources needed for our energy transition, but tend to forget that all extractive processes have an impact on people and the environment. This is definitely the case with lithium mining in Argentina, as we will explain in this webinar we are organising with our partner FARN. We will illustrate how there is no such thing as sustainable mining and how we need to think very critically about our hunger for resources in the Global North."

Last year Both ENDS released a publication about the foreign financiers of Argentina's lithium rush, which shows the export credit agencies' support for lithium mining.

In our session we explore the complex issue: the environmental and human rights impacts of raw materials extraction in vulnerable areas. It also considers potential solutions such as more representation of local communities in strategic partnerships and projects and supply chains free of wetland degradation and ecosystem conversion.

Session outline:

  • Welcoming and setting the scene: Moderator, Teresa Hoffmann, Senior Policy Advisor Raw Materials and Fair Trade, Brot für die Welt
  • Case study: Environmental impact of lithium extraction in the High Andes: Román Baigún, Programme Manager of Saving High Andean Wetlands for People and Nature, Wetlands International LAC
  • Case study: Human Impact of lithium extraction: Pia Marchegiani, Director of Environmental Policy – Deputy Executive Director, FARN
  • The CRMA implementation: Robin Roel, EU Raw Materials Coalition Coordinator, European Environmental Bureau
  • Reaction from EU: TBC
  • Q&A
  • Closing

Reserve a ticket for the online event