A reserve potentially containing as much as one million tonnes of lithium oxide has been found near Mount Everest and Chinese authorities are contemplating the possibility of initiating mining operations. However, experts are raising concerns about the impact of this activity in an area that provides drinking water to billions downstream.
The deposit, China’s third largest, is situated in the Tibetan plateau, over 5,000 metres above sea level, in a glacier region that feeds both the Yellow and the Yangtze Rivers.
Lithium is a key component in battery manufacture and, with a shift towards electric vehicles, the demand for this metal is highly likely to keep rising.
Qin Kezhang, the leader of Chinese research team, told ScienceNet: “the location of the mining area is convenient and has a rural cement road. The positive terrain is conducive to mining. The ore body is exposed, and there is no need for deep excavation. It is far away from the core nature reserve of Mount Everest.”
However, lithium mining is an activity that demands an intensive use of water putting stress on local freshwater sources which, in this case, are the Himalayan glaciers. Glaciologists from have warned against the danger of freshwater contamination and the potential impact such an activity could have on a regions which provides water to billions in China and in India.
A final decision on whether Chinese authorities were going ahead with mining activities still has not been made.