Greening extractivism: Environmental discourses and resource governance in the ‘Lithium Triangle’

Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik, D (Diego) Andreucci

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72 Citations (Scopus)
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The lithium extractive industry is expanding, as technological and economic shifts associated with climate change mitigation goals drive global demand for lithium-ion batteries. This article explores the case of the ‘Lithium Triangle’, a region of Latin America (spanning Bolivia, Chile and Argentina) that contains the world’s largest reserves, and where environmental conflicts associated with lithium mining have proliferated. Emphasising the centrality of discourse in resource governance, we analyse the discursive strategies employed by institutional actors seeking to promote and render acceptable lithium extraction in the region. We argue that such strategies reproduce imaginaries of prosperity and modernisation long attached to oil and mineral wealth, while at the same time introducing a novel association of mining with high-tech industries, ‘green jobs’ and ‘climate-friendly’ extraction, seeking to obscure the social and ecological costs of lithium production. This inaugurates an era of ‘green extractivism’, whereby intensive resource exploitation is framed not only as compatible with climate change, but indeed as necessary to its mitigation. Our findings contribute to ongoing conversations regarding post-fossil fuel ‘transitions’, by highlighting the contradictory character of mitigation strategies that rely on mineral-intensive development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-809
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Diego Andreucci’s contribution to this article was funded through a Juan de la Cierva-Formación postdoctoral fellowship of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (2018-2019), and through the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity (2019-2021) programme of the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

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