Protecting our Lithium Resources through Responsible Stewardship

Because of society’s growing reliance on lithium for energy storage, it is critical that the companies exploiting the world’s lithium resources adopt a position of stewardship, one that promotes environmental sustainability, community betterment and economic development.

At Albemarle, finding innovative and sustainable solutions to support our stewardship position drives everything we do. Our global lithium operations demonstrate this commitment in three critical areas: environmental sustainability, community involvement and economic development.

Environmental Sustainability

In support of our stewardship commitment, we have adopted extraction techniques and processing technologies that are environmentally sound and proven beyond bench or pilot scale. For our brine resources, we meter our pumping rates to prevent instability in the hydrogeological system which could jeopardize the integrity of the resource. Decades of experience in this industry has taught us that an intimate understanding of the hydrogeology is necessary to prevent this. The extensive studies we have conducted on the groundwater basins in both Silver Peak, Nevada and the Salar de Atacama, Chile guide us in our operations. 

Excessive pumping can impact the surface of the playa, resulting in subsidence and sinkhole formation. Because of this, we carefully monitor our pumping rates to assure the stability of the underlying aquifers and playa surface. 

In Silver Peak, Nevada, we are encouraging the United States Geological Survey to update their annual recharge estimates for the Clayton Valley. These estimates were conducted nearly 50 years ago and do not account for all extraction activities currently occurring in the basin. We are also planning our own exploration work to evaluate the deeper aquifer systems. The intent of these studies is to provide a current, detailed assessment of the hydrogeological environment and the impact of pumping rates on the integrity of this system. 

In Chile, Albemarle has developed a numerical computer model to accurately assess the brine pumping capacity of the Salar de Atacama. We use this model along with a permitted "early warning system" to protect the integrity of the fresh water lagoons adjacent to the Salar that serve as flamingo habitat. The early warning system utilizes advanced biological and ecological monitoring techniques to assess the health of the ecosystem. 

At our brine extraction facilities in Silver Peak and the Salar de Atacama, brine is concentrated through evaporation, a natural, environmentally sustainable process that uses solar energy in place of mechanical processes that utilize fossil fuels. No chemicals or additives are used in the evaporation process, and we continue to implement production technologies that reduce power consumption, improve operational efficiency and minimize emissions. In Silver Peak, we also maintain a robust, employee-led avian protection program to protect, rescue, rehabilitate and relocate migratory birds that land in the higher-salinity ponds

Community Involvement

The benefits of responsible stewardship also extend to the communities in which we operate. Some lithium reserves, such as our operations in Chile, are found in areas of cultural significance, amongst indigenous communities that have inhabited the area for hundreds of years. As stewards of the resource, we have a responsibility to not only preserve the rich traditions and cultural significance of the area, but to share value with these communities. 

In March 2016, the Atacameno People’s Council (CPA) and Albemarle, through its subsidiary Rockwood Litio Ltda., signed a landmark Cooperation, Sustainability and Mutual Benefit Agreement to formalize a collaborative relationship with all indigenous communities of the Atacama Salar basin. We are proud of this partnership with the CPA and hope that it becomes an example for others in the industry to follow. 

Furthermore, approximately 70% of our workforce at the salar is from the indigenous community of Piene. We have given back to this community by establishing a power plant, building a primary and secondary school, and providing transportation to the schools for the students. 

And in Silver Peak, Nevada, through our philanthropic foundation, we have partnered with a local organization to improve healthcare access in the region.

Economic Development

Our ongoing operations and continuous investments have served as a positive economic stimulus in the communities in which we operate. For example, our established lithium extraction facilities in Nevada, Chile and Greenbushes, Australia (throughout our Talison Joint Venture) provide a large number of stable employment opportunities in these otherwise remote areas. 

These employment opportunities, combined with substantial investments in local infrastructure, have created mutually-beneficial partnerships with local municipalities. And because of the extent of our investments and our financial wherewithal, these municipalities can rest assured that we will be a productive corporate citizen for years to come. Lithium is not a speculative endeavor for us; it is a critical, core business.


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Last Updated: 1/27/2017 2:10:40 PM