“Lithium Mines #1, Salt Flats, Atacama Desert, Chile, 2017”
Who knew lithium mining could be so pretty? The Atacama Desert, high in a barren corner of Chile, is home to the largest-known deposit of lithium, which powers the batteries in our phones and electric cars. Miners pump out salt and water from deep wells—they’re after the brine, of which less than one per cent is lithium. Through a slow, year-long evaporation, they concentrate the lithium and remove the salts, which creates this crazy quilt of blues and greens. In conceiving their Anthropocene project, Burtynsky and his collaborators wanted to balance good- and badnews stories. Burtynsky, who drives a Tesla, believes that alternative energy stored in efficient lithium batteries is firmly in the former category.