Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



Lithium has become a valuable commodity and resource globally. The metal’s power generating and storing qualities have directly contributed to the development of the lithium-ion battery, which is primarily used in electric vehicles. As the demand for electric vehicles continuously grows, electric vehicle manufacturers require substantially larger quantities of lithium to ensure their supply meets demand. Thus, manufacturers rely on lithium mining companies to establish mining operations in lithium dense areas and extract tremendous amounts of the element. One country where an abundance of lithium can be found is Argentina. Known as one of the countries comprising the “lithium triangle,” Argentina’s salt flats are rich in lithium, making it a highly desirable location for lithium mining companies to commence operations. Jujuy, Argentina, is specifically known for its lithium supply, as the Salinas Grandes region in Jujuy composes greater than one-third of the country’s total lithium reserves. With mining companies initiating or planning lithium mining operations in Jujuy, there is great concern for the Indigenous communities living in the region. The Salinas Grandes is home to thousands of Indigenous peoples who depend on the region’s lands and resources to support their habitability and livelihoods. Lithium mining threatens these lands and resources, however, due to the resource scarcity, and water and soil contamination associated with lithium mining. The Jujuy Indigenous communities have attempted to alleviate the damage of lithium mining through soliciting aid from the Argentinian Government, but the Government has wholly failed to acknowledge the harm imposed upon these communities. Instead, the Government has silenced, undermined, and disregarded the Jujuy Indigenous communities, demonstrating that the Government is only interested in benefiting and profiting from the emergence of lithium mining. The Government has significant obligations, pursuant to the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to respect and uphold the land and resource rights of the Jujuy Indigenous communities. These rights require the Government to afford the Jujuy Indigenous peoples consultation and participation rights with regards to lithium mining reforms, contracts, and regulations. The Government, nevertheless, has not implemented adequate procedures to preserve these rights, demonstrating that the Government is infringing upon the Jujuy Indigenous communities’ internationally recognized rights. This Note argues that the Argentinian Government has substantially breached its obligations under international law, mandating the Government to amend its lithium mining reforms to mitigate any further violation of the Jujuy Indigenous communities’ rights.