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DESA, ECLAC Gather Experts on Sustainable Use and Production of Lithium

20 December 2010: The Senior Expert Group Meeting on Sustainable Development of Lithium Resources in Latin America: Emerging Issues and Opportunities was co-organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The meeting gathered 55 experts of the Latin American region and other countries, who proposed alternatives for more sustainable use and development of lithium resources. Participants at the 10-11 November 2010 meeting, which convened at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile, adopted a brief summary of conclusions and recommendations (available in the Annex to document E/CN.17/2011/16).

The experts heard and discussed 21 presentations, and took note of a number of general conclusions and recommendations, including the following: lithium carbonate production based on the extraction of lithium chloride brine from salt flats tends to be more economical and more environmentally benign than lithium extracted from pegmatite or other sources; it is essential for long-term sustainable development that countries that produce lithium batteries also develop and test, plan for and introduce lithium battery recycling technologies; the extraction of lithium through evaporation of brines in salt flats can have significant impacts on the delicate balance of limited fresh and/or ground water supplies; comprehensive environmental impact assessment studies and monitoring is crucial to prevent, minimize and mitigate any negative impacts on the flora, fauna and ecosystems in the salars and the adjacent areas; new lithium extraction technologies, going beyond solar energy and evaporation, could contribute to enhancing lithium production in the future; and to avoid or reduce potential social conflicts it is essential to ensure a broad-based public participation process starting at the project planning stage, including the involvement of indigenous people and communities. [Meeting Report]