The “Lithium Triangle” is a geographic territory made up of the world’s largest salt flats: the Olaroz salt flat in Argentina, the Atacama salt flat in Chile, and the Uyuni salt flat Bolivia. The territory has been occupied by global interests for the extraction of the rare earth metal “lithium”, of which is a critical component for contemporary electric batteries. Producing over half of the world’s supply of lithium, the “Lithium Triangle” has ushered an era of economic boom, often referred to as the ‘white gold rush’.
Characterized through the mega-scale processes of lithium-contained brines (mining pools), the Lithium Triangle has become a subject of debate between the local and global. On one hand, global interests in electrical energy consumption has signaled territorial expansions through the urban-industrial teleology through the extraction of the rare earth metal (lithium). On the other hand, these same interests have signaled consequential natural and social catastrophes under the counter-teleologies implied through intensified anthropogenic activity.
Above White Gold is a proposal for a observation center located in the Salar de Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The observation core, topping out at 300 meters, is the same vertical distance required by lithium brine mining operations in digging into the ground. The core has two explicit functions: 1) From the top, to observe the vast landscape of of lithium production, and 2) From the bottom, to observe the natural resources underneath. In doing so, the core exposes the process of lithium extraction and its geographic and geological implications.