Innovations in Lithium Regimes

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


    Presentation at Panel on 'Minerals for New Technologies and Low-Carbon Economies; Legal Challenges, Policy Implications and Opportunities’, Bi-Annual SEERIL Conference, IBA, held in Lisbon.
    Dr Bastida provided context and shared insights from ongoing research on law and public policy debates about the development and production of lithium commodities within what has become known as the “Lithium Triangle” in South America, an area straddling portions of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. The Lithium Triangle is estimated to contain approximately 70% of the world’s lithium reserves, making it a critical target for international investment driven by the growing demand for battery minerals for energy economies worldwide that are trending toward maximization of electric energy and away from consumption of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions in the wake of the Paris Agreement and United Nation’s establishment of Sustainable Development Goals. The mining sector will be instrumental in heeding calls for coherent development that integrates environmental, social and economic dimensions under policy priorities that are emerging to advance a sustainable development agenda in all three countries. In Chile, lithium is considered as a strategic mineral reserved to the State. Apart from the two companies operating in the rich Salar de Atacama, the State-owned Codelco has established a subsidiary, Salar de Maricunga S.p.A., to develop Salar de Maricunga. This was one of recommendations of the National Lithium Commission established by the Ministry of Mines in 2014, that released a 2015 report, Lithium Policy and Governance of Salt Flats, to recommend public policy pathways for lithium development. Pursuant to research suggesting that lithium brines in the “Salares” are natural dynamic ecosystems of great fragility that have a “hydrodynamic behavior,” with the potential for extraction to affect concentrations in adjacent properties, the report calls for a “paradigmatic change” to ensure a “shared value” approach among communities and projects; legal regime revisions to expand contracts in use for petroleum development to development of lithium; and innovation and technological clusters in all phases of the value chain including the fabrication of lithium products. Bolivia –where the constitution of 2009 mandates adding value and industrialising minerals - has established agency oversight and a state-owned company centered on evaporitic resources, invested in four pilot plants to produce lithium carbonate and assembly batteries, and commissioned the design of an industrial plant for lithium carbonate to a German firm in 2015. In Argentina, as a general rule, lithium is subject to the concession regime established under the Mining Code, whereby mineral rights are granted following an objective, non-discretionary criteria on a first-come first served basis. Downstream user companies are investing in lithium projects. Some provinces are pursuing initiatives to add value and have acted on the development of guidelines, and the formation of a provincial state-owned company and a private-public partnership to install the first lithium-ion cell factory. Important questions going forward include: (1) what role will multi-stakeholder groups and innovative governance play in solving environmental and societal demands; (2) how must existing regimes, regulatory tools adapt and evolve to advance sustainable development?
    Period10 Apr 2018
    Held atInternational Bar Association, United Kingdom
    Degree of RecognitionInternational


    • lithium; critical metals; energy transition