Dynamics of local impacts in low-carbon transition: Agent-based modeling of lithium mining-community-aquifer interactions in Salar de Atacama, Chile

Wenjuan Liu, Datu B. Agusdinata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The global transition to low-carbon technologies has accelerated the extraction of lithium. Its associated implications on local socio-environmental systems, however, are often overlooked. This study develops an agent-based model, applied to the lithium extraction in Salar de Atacama, Chile to understand (1) how mining's brine pumping rates affect groundwater movements and (2) how changes in water resources affect social-stress dynamics under multiple projections of mining activities. The results show the groundwater declines significantly in the mining area with impacts spreading outwards to nearby communities. Communities near mining operations are most vulnerable to mining expansions, while more distant residents experience long-lasting impacts due to lower compensation and delayed groundwater recovery. We found the role of groundwater uncertainties in causing the mismatched evolution of environmental and social dynamics, thereby highlighting some governance challenges stemming from resource uncertainties. Our analysis also points to a possible striking increase in social stress resulting from the recent social overburden in the area, underlining the need of building community resilience. We discuss how improved resource governance, pathways to build community resilience, and alternative mining techniques to decouple water use can help industrial and regional decision-makers better manage the world's largest lithium production sites towards a sustainable future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100927
JournalExtractive Industries and Society
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Agent-based model
  • Community resilience
  • Lithium mining
  • Resource uncertainties
  • Socio-environmental impacts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Economic Geology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Dynamics of local impacts in low-carbon transition: Agent-based modeling of lithium mining-community-aquifer interactions in Salar de Atacama, Chile'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this