29.2 C
Byron Shire
January 26, 2021

The next black gold? A lithium coup d’Etat

Latest News

What to do with no booze at your party

Eve Jeffery It’s almost human nature, certainly Australian nature, to celebrate with a drink. Nothing says wetting the baby’s head...

Other News

New look and feel for Echonetdaily readers

Every old Echonetdaily is renewed again – the face of our online presence has had a lift as we...

Nice try Anastasia!

Graham Mathews, Possum Creek  I read with interest Anastasia’s insistence that the recent Qld outbreak of the new ‘super strain’...

GetUp! wants to know what you think about losing your papers

Many parts of Australia, in particular, some rural and remote areas were stunned by the closure of their local print newspaper last winter.

Foolish guestimates

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores The article in The Echo titled A short history of our rail line debate is anything...

How the study of dolphin airways could help save endangered whales

Paul Bibby A new study exploring the health of dolphin airways has revealed findings that could help save endangered whale...

A short history of our rail corridor debate

The debate over our disused rail corridor has long gone stale. It is acrimonious, ideological, and exhibits a strong tendency to avoid key points.

Jason van Tol

You’re all set to buy the latest iPhone or its Android equivalent, the last thing on your mind is the recent overthrow of Bolivia’s government. Why should it be?

Your phone, like power tools, electric cars, and many other battery-powered technologies, depend on lithium for their energy supply. Being the lightest metal and highly reactive makes lithium a prime candidate for batteries, which are needed to help carry forth the renewable energy revolution now underway.

Money and politics

Because the economy is a real thing, this lithium needs to be mined, refined, and transported to production facilities before making its way into your phone or other electronic device. So where is it coming from? According to the US Geological Survey, in 2018 (the most recent year data is available) Australia was, by far, the largest producer of lithium in the world – about 51,000 tonnes, or 60 per cent of global production. However, in terms of estimated resources, Bolivia is believed to hold about nine million tonnes, second in the world only to Argentina. With the demand for lithium rising, this makes Bolivia a geopolitical hot spot.

On November 10, 2019 Evo Morales, the democratically elected president of Bolivia, was forced to resign under pressure from the military and police. In a recent interview with Glenn Greenwald, Morales stated that he was convinced that what had occurred was ‘a lithium coup d’etat’ and one against him and his party’s economic policies.

Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. Source of lithium and world’s largest salt flat. Photo Anouchka Unel/Wikipedia.

Not for the people?

Morales was Bolivia’s first indigenous president. When he first took office in 2006, Bolivia was one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. Under his government, many industries, including lithium, were nationalised, and the profits which would otherwise be sent to private investors abroad, were instead used to eliminate illiteracy and greatly reduce poverty, and expand social, health, and educational programs.

This, Morales explained, was ‘our sin’; that the government of an indigenous president would take control of its country’s own resources, and use them for its own development, under its own guidance. ‘Transnational companies are behind the coup. The United States, too, because of the lithium issue’ Morales stated in summary.

Recognise the coup

‘Think globally, act locally’ is a banner frequently flown in the Northern Rivers – you can see it, often literally, at the Channon Market. What might it mean in this case?

To begin with, Australia could join the many countries, including Argentina, Mexico, and Uruguay, who have refused to recognise the new Bolivian government, and accept that a coup has occurred; rather than praise the event using newspeak lingo as a great ‘win for democracy’, as the US and Brazil have done.

Although the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website still lists Morales as Bolivia’s head of government, it does not appear to have taken a clear stand in rejecting the new regime and labelling what has occurred as a coup. Clarification was provided by DFAT prior to publication.

Australian jobs

In economic terms, Australia should think about what it does with its own lithium resources, which are estimated to be about 7.7 million tonnes. Currently, all of the lithium which is mined in Australia is exported for downstream refinement and production of consumer goods, including batteries. The only minor exception to this is Tianqi Lithium, which has developed a plant to refine the mined ore into lithium hydroxide – one of the next steps to battery production. Yet, this too is then exported.

Nationalising this pivotal industry and retaining its profits in public, rather than private, foreign coffers, just as Bolivia did, would contribute to Australia’s common wealth and thereby help fund our own social, health, and educational programs.

A 2018 report by the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies deems lithium to have a two trillion-dollar value chain, and suggests that the government take an active role in helping to develop it. It also mentions the potential to create thousands of domestic jobs. This aspect, of an industry which will surely grow, is also important, especially at a time when the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that approximately 30 per cent of young Australians (those aged 15–24 years-old) are either unemployed or underemployed.

Though there are ecological limits to the size of the economy, investing in domestic production of renewable energy technologies will help limit greenhouse gas emissions and thereby climate change, as well as provide jobs for Australians.

At the moment, whether your new mobile is an iPhone or an Android, its batteries are produced elsewhere.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. The Australian government is a vassal of US Corporatocracy. Forget nationalising anything the US wants. Pacifying the Australian population is the closest to benevolence we will get.

    What has happened in Bolivia is business as usual.

  2. Just remember Mr. van Tol,
    As Mr.Morales has just pointed out, you are on very shaky ground. You are obviously right,… but the last politician who tried to do anything to benefit the people of this country was Gough, and look what they did to him ! This country is, and always has been , nothing more than a cheap resource, exploited at the convenience of the multinational economic criminals and, of course, the CROWN.
    Cheers , G”)

  3. If you think that’s a crazy notion, how crazy is the idea we were all made out of dirt or clay, however the story goes…
    Quantum potential requires a vibration that matches.. the one very pure match is an open heart.. the energy of creation (love) matches quantum fields. Maybe that’s where we are missing the point. It can not be mimicked by machines. It is an experience then of mechanised vibration. A mechanical interpretation of the frequency.
    Pure heart. Pure intention!

    Much love


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -

Hand-picked beans make the best brew for Bangalow Coffee

Story & photo Melissa Butters Andy and Michelle have been serving up great coffee at farmers markets for 18 years. Andy, an exploration geologist, and...

A lot to bang on about at golf clubs and bowlos

Gone are the days when services and sports clubs dished up a choice between a pie and chips, or bangers and mash. Food in clubs...

Entertainment in the Byron Shire for the week beginning 27 January, 2021

Lemon Chicken is not only a Chinese takeaway favourite, it's also a great local five piece band who play songs that you forgot you loved. They like to pick and choose from the fine selection of great tunes we all grew up on.

Rail Trail or nothing!

Neil McKenzie, Bangalow David Lisle’s article A short history of our rail corridor debate summed up succinctly and accurately the compelling case for a rail trail,...
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -