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Centre for International Environmental Studies

The Global Political Ecology of Lithium Commodity Chain

  • Timeline: 2017 - 2021 + Extension until August 2022
  • Keywords: lithium, commodity chain, political ecology, governance
  • Partners: Universidad de Antofagasta, Universidad Nacional de Salta, CIDES de la Universidad de San Andrés
  • Funding Organisation: SNF


Due to their ability to store large amounts of energy in lightweight compact form, lithium-based technologies are now at the cutting-edge of research and development in energy storage. Reflecting this interest, the global demand for lithium is expected to multiply tenfold by 2050 and its price is increasing rapidly. Lithium has become one of the planet's most strategic commodities. The aim of this project is to take stock of the lithium commodity chain from a political ecology and a governance perspective. Can lithium, as a symbolic commodity for the green economy, be produced and consumed in a socially equitable and environmentally sustainable way? What are the implications of present and future market configurations for the metal? And what are the obstacles for a sound governance regime of this natural resource?