After a 20-hour flight, Franziska Killiches reaches her destination. Chile. Atacama Desert. One of the driest places on earth. “The ground is hard as stone. Every drop of water evaporates immediately,” Killiches recalls her first impressions. Unlike the 250,000 tourists a year, she is not visiting the desert to see geysers in the mountains or lagoons full of flamingos. The 33-year-old has been working at Volkswagen for almost a year as an expert for sustainable raw materials procurement. Time and again she reads critical reports on the mining of lithium in the Atacama region. The main accusation: the extraction of raw materials endangers the water supply of the indigenous inhabitants. The purpose of Killiches’ trip: “We want to make our own picture.” For just under a week Killiches travels from place to place in a small group. She talks to local community representatives and to companies that extract lithium.
Fact-finding expedition to the lithium desert of Chile
Does lithium mining harm the inhabitants of the Atacama Desert in Chile? Repeated reports have been published – but for a reliable overall picture the facts are not available. Franziska Killiches, an expert for sustainable raw materials procurement at Volkswagen, therefore set out to investigate the matter herself.