Locals in another region known for its wild flamingos are complaining that eco-friendly cars are not so friendly to their own ecosystem.
Tesla Motors and General Motors’ Chevrolet are selling mass-market electric cars next year, but their batteries require lithium. Much of that silver-white metal is being mined from brine deposits under the world’s driest desert in northern Chile.
The 3,000-square kilometre Salar de Atacama is home to wild flamingos, who feed and breed in its lagoons, where miners are sucking water out of the earth to get to the lithium.
Satellite images bear this out. Some lagoons and meadows in the salt flat are shrinking, and the Chilean Forestry Commission has recorded a drop in the flamingo population.
A parliamentary commission has been unable to connect the depletion of water resources with the lithium miners, leaving it to the local community to drum up interest in the fate of the flamingos.