Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni salt flats hold the largest reserves of lithium in the world.

Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni salt flats hold the largest reserves of lithium in the world. (Photo: Psyberartist/Flickr/cc)

Bolivian Coup Comes Less Than a Week After Morales Stopped Multinational Firm's Lithium Deal

"Bolivia's lithium belongs to the Bolivian people. Not to multinational corporate cabals."

Eoin Higgins

The Sunday military coup in Bolivia has put in place a government which appears likely to reverse a decision by just-resigned President Evo Morales to cancel an agreement with a German company for developing lithium deposits in the Latin American country for batteries like those in electric cars. 

"Bolivia's lithium belongs to the Bolivian people," tweeted Washington Monthly contributor David Atkins. "Not to multinational corporate cabals."

The coup, which on Sunday resulted in Morales resigning and going into hiding, was the result of days of protests from right-wing elements angry at the leftist Morales government. Sen. Jeanine Añez, of the center-right party Democratic Unity, is currently the interim president in the unstable post-coup government in advance of elections.

Investment analyst publisher Argus urged investors to keep an eye on the developing situation and noted that gas and oil production from foreign companies in Bolivia had remained steady.

The Morales move on Nov. 4 to cancel the December 2018 agreement with Germany's ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA) came after weeks of protests from residents of the Potosí area. The region has 50% to 70% of the world's lithium reserves in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats.

Among other clients, ACISA provides batteries to Tesla; Tesla's stock rose Monday after the weekend. 

As Bloomberg News noted in 2018, that has set the country up to be incredibly important in the next decade:

Demand for lithium is expected to more than double by 2025. The soft, light mineral is mined mainly in Australia, Chile, and Argentina. Bolivia has plenty—9 million tons that have never been mined commercially, the second-largest amount in the world—but until now there's been no practical way to mine and sell it.

Morales' cancellation of the ACISA deal opened the door to either a renegotiation of the agreement with terms delivering more of the profits to the area's population or the outright nationalization of the Bolivian lithium extraction industry.

As Telesur reported in June, the Morales government announced at the time it was "determined to industrialize Bolivia and has invested huge amounts to ensure that lithium is processed within the country to export it only in value-added form, such as in batteries."

It's unclear what the next steps are for the industry in a post-coup Bolivia, according to global intelligence analysis firm Stratfor:

In the longer term, continued political uncertainty will make it more difficult for Bolivia to increase its production of strategic metals like lithium or develop a value-added sector in the battery market. The poor investment climate comes at a time of expanding global opportunities in lithium-ion battery production to meet rising demand from electric vehicle manufacturing

ACISA told German broadcaster DW last week that the company was "confident that our lithium project will be resumed after a phase of political calmness and clarification."

On Sunday, Morales resigned.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·


Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo