“Below a summary of key findings from the first four years of our investigation.”

Negative impacts of resource extraction:

  • During our research we were able to confirm other researchers' findings and local people's testimony on the impacts of extraction. We noted that:

  • The extraction of water for lithium and copper mining has impacted the lagoons and water table in the Salar de Atacama;

  • The depth of the water table has been steadily decreasing;

  • Vegetation cover has decreased all across the salar;

  • Animal and microbial ecosystems have been affected by the reduction in water levels, by shifts in the flow of water and by changes in the water’s chemical composition;

  • Dust and particulate materials released by mining activities generate a white haze that is permanently over the salar.

Additionally, we have noted the following under-discussed issues:

  • That mental ecologies have deteriorated all across the salar’s communities, manifest in prevailing suspicion and intra-community conflict. This is due to the direct impacts of extraction over agricultural modes of existence; and due to the heavy burden of contesting extractivism, magnified by both state and mining companies' political and financial pressure over local community leaders and representatives.

  • This is magnified by the presence of multiple non-local mediators such as advocacy teams, expert teams, and multiple foundations, whose ultimate goals are often unclear;

  • That poorly planned urbanisation is affecting the northern areas of the salar, with soil impermeabilisation leading to the worsening of yearly flood events from the Andes;

  • That water overconsumption for restoration and hotels adds pressure on limited water resources;

  • That IPCC climate change scenarios indicate a reduction of Salar de Atacama’s competitive advantage over salt-flats in Bolivia and Argentina, due to an increase in rainfall and cloud cover, and therefore reducing evaporation rates.