On 26th April, the Facebook Page 'Conservative Country' tried to smear the electric vehicle (EV) industry by examining how the sector obtains its supplies of lithium for lithium ion batteries.
I guess they figured noone would bother to check the image for accuracy. But I did.
The image you can see in the lower half of the picture is actually not a lithium mine at all. It is in fact the open cast mine at Escondida in Chile, which mines copper, not lithium. You can see the picture of this mine at the 911 Metalurgist site here where it is featured as mine No 14 on the sites list.
That said, lithium-ion batteries do use small amounts of copper and other metals in addition to lithium, but lithium itself is MOSTLY (there is a reason for the caps here), found beneath briny salt ponds such as this:
Once the water is removed, the lithium may be extracted like so:
I decided to check via Google images whether there is any open cast lithium mines in the world, and at first I thought I had found one. A mine at Soquimich, operated by SQM. However, I confess I failed to notice that actually many of the resulting images are incorrectly labelled, and so for that reason there are a number of pictures that are labelled as representing Soquimich which actually show the Russian diamond mine at Mirny (below)
In reality, the vast majority, if not all, lithium mines, consist of brine fields, as this blog from Amusing Planet makes clear.
So in essence, although there is an environmental issue, it is not actually as bad as the Conservative Country Facebook Page is trying to portray. The main issue is about supply, not environmental destruction. Fortunately, lithium is very recyclable and so future supplies may come from redundant electrical devices and scrapped EV batteries. There is indeed a problem with lithium, but Conservative Country is only going to make itself look completely stupid if it tries to suggest that lithium mines are open cast, when in fact they are not.