The Falchani Lithium Project and the Macusani Uranium Project in Carabaya (Puno) are currently being considered for exploration. The presence of uranium in the Carabaya locality had been determined prior to 1980 by the Peruvian Institute of Nuclear Energy. Canadian companies Vena Resources and Frontier Pacific obtained uranium exploration permits for 30,000 ha at 4,500 m altitude. These were acquired by Global Gold which in 2017 also discovers lithium and changes its name to Macusani Yellowcake. However, these resources were found in "exploratory activities that did not have any environmental certification and also did not undergo a process of prior consultation" .
Then, in May 2021, the Canadian company American Lithium acquired Plateau Energy Metals, owner of Macusani Yellowcake, making it its subsidiary , Macusani Yellowcake received 2 administrative sanctions for 2 million soles in 2019 from the Environmental Evaluation and Oversight Agency (OEFA) for carrying out exploration activities without having the respective authorizations . In addition to these fines, the company faces proceedings in Canada since May 2021 before the Ontario Securities Commission for failing to disclose in a timely manner to its investors the litigation with the Geological, Mining and Metallurgical Institute (Ingemmet) over the title to 32 of its 151 mining concessions - the Falchani Lithium project and the Macusani Uranium project are among these 151 concessions. American Lithium asserts that now that Plateau is its subsidiary it intends to continue to defend the allegations in the administrative process .
The lithium deposits found would be the largest in the world but being in the presence of uranium requires special legislation that Peru does not yet have and a thorough risk assessment. Despite these administrative sanctions, the process in Canada and the failure to apply a process of free, prior and informed consultation with the indigenous communities in the area, the Peruvian Congress approved on July 15, 2021 Law No. 31283 declaring the exploration, exploitation and industrialization of lithium and its derivatives as a public necessity, of national interest and a strategic resource . Lithium currently has a high price due to the high demand in the so-called "clean or green" energy industry.
Former minister of Mines: “lithium, as well as copper, are metals of the future”
Lithium is considered one of the critical metals needed for the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies to reduce CO2 emissions and thus fight climate change. Necessary technologies for the energy transition, such as lithium batteries for electric cars and energy storage produced in power plants, require lithium for their manufacture.
The Peruvian government, the mining industry chamber and the Supervisory Body for Investment in Energy and Mining (OSINERG) use the energy transition discourse to promote the extraction of metals and minerals in fragile ecosystems. The government, for example, highlights the country's role in the manufacture of electric cars: "lithium, as well as copper, are metals of the future because they are part of the demand for new products that will be manufactured worldwide, such as electric cars and batteries" .
Backed by the government, American Lithium also uses this discourse to its advantage to promote its Falchani project among its investors. In corporate mining spaces, American Lithium reinforces the idea that the company is in an ideal position to capitalize the demand for lithium: “Through our Falchani lithium project, our goal is to develop a large, long life project capable of producing a low impurity battery grade lithium chemical, that we believe will be well positioned to help meet the world’s shift to sustainability through electric mobility and battery storage”. It also promotes Macusani as a uranium project that will be “A Green Energy Enabler" . The company has used this to characterize its work in Peru in lithium and uranium mining, or as it calls them “green energy metals” as "pioneering” in order to argue that “this will help strengthen the country’s status as a prime mining jurisdiction" . As will be seen in the following section, despite these governmental and corporate discourses, the communities of Carabaya denounce the company for not applying free, prior and informed consultation, risks to their health, natural and cultural landscape.
Glacier concessions in the midst of a climate emergency .
Consulted on the page of the Geological, Mining and Metallurgical Institute (INGEMMET), the province of Carabaya has 69 mining concessions with the holder of the company name Global Gold; to this are added 12 concessions located between the territories of Carabaya and Canchis (Cusco); 03 concessions Carabaya and Melgar, 01 concession between Carabaya and San Anton, 01 between Carabaya, Melgar and Canchis. Likewise, under the name Macusani Yellowcake, in Carabaya there are 47 concessions, and 02 concessions between Carabaya and Melgar. And as Lithium Energy Perú, 02 concessions between Carabaya and Canchis.
According to the review of Google Earth maps and Ingemmet's web system, the 167 mining concession grids are located around and above the Quelccaya snow-capped mountain. For example, the mining concession with code N° 010148007, with the name COLIBRI XXXIX, 900 hectares, owned by Globald Gold, today Macusani Yellowcake, is superimposed in the center of the snow-capped mountain.
The Quelccaya snow-capped mountain is the largest tropical glacier in the world, located in southeastern Peru, at more than 5600 meters above sea level and is located in the Vilcanota mountain range. It is more than 17 km long, has a surface area of 44 km² and an ice cap 200 m thick. Since 1974 it has been considered a world 'thermometer', measuring the consequences of global warming, which is in charge of the scientist Lonnie Thompson, principal investigator of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center of the State of Ohio, United States.
The waters of the Quelccaya snowfall contribute to the formation of rivers, lagoons, and streams, supplying fresh water to the people who live around the snowfall and to all the biodiversity in the area. It is also a source of water from the Vilcanota River, which provides more than 50% of the drinking water for the Cusco region, and as a source of hydroelectric power for Puno, Cusco and Apurimac in times of low water. It is also the source of water for the Amazon River.
The mines are located in a natural landscape inhabited by indigenous communities that live from raising camelids of high genetic quality and agriculture, an area sheltered by the Marcapata, Macusani, Inambari and Phinaya river basins. For these reasons, local communities and local organizations have expressed their concern about the explorations and rejected the environmental and cultural damage that these lithium and uranium projects could cause to their territories, plants, animals and, consequently, livelihoods: from contamination of their watersheds to diseases caused by the mismanagement of uranium exploration.
Environmental and health context of the Puno region, where lithium and uranium will be mined.
Environmental liabilities are considered to be those facilities, effluents, emissions, remains or waste deposits produced by mining operations, currently abandoned or inactive, and which constitute a permanent and potential risk to the health of the population, the surrounding ecosystem and property according to Law No. 28271 .
Based on the government's PAM update and DHUMA monitoring, 915 PAMs were identified in the Puno region according to R.M N° 200-2021-MINEM/DM that approves the update of the Initial Inventory of Mining Environmental Liabilities approved by R.M N° 290-2006-MEM/DM . The following data is available from the DHUMA update: 1) of the 915 PAMs in the Puno region, only 72 were identified as generators, 2) only 292 are responsible for their treatment, while 623 have not yet been considered, 3) only 180 have environmental studies for their treatment, closure and/or remediation, while 735 still do not have environmental instruments.
According to the National Water Authority (ANA), mining environmental liabilities that affect water quality are acid water drainage outfalls, land clearing whose surface exposed to rain generates acid water drainage and whose flows depend on the rainy season (January-March); also, abandoned tailings dams, which are eroded during the rainy season and whose material (tailings) is transported to the surrounding bodies of water . According to DHUMA's monitoring of the MAP update, a total of 597 MAPs were identified within these subtypes, including mine mouths, waste dumps and tailings. In addition, ANA mentions that decreases in the pH of the water make it more corrosive, the solubility of many heavy metals increases making the water toxic, and the fluvial ecosystem degrades, until it is incapable of sustaining aquatic life.
In addition, the study of prioritization of basins for the management of water resources in Peru by the National Water Authority (2016)  shows that: the basins identified as "high priority" due to high percentages of contamination, water scarcity, social conflicts, and economic affectation are the basins: 1) Coata, 2) Huancané, 3) Ilave, and "medium priority" the: 4) Suches watershed, 5) Azángaro watershed, 6) Illpa watershed, 7) Pucará watershed, 8) Callacame watershed and 9) Intercuenca Ramis . Therefore, the Coata watershed is one of the three watersheds classified as high priority, due to the high percentages of contamination, water scarcity, social conflicts and economic affectation. Therefore, it can be concluded that nine (09) of the thirteen (13) watersheds that make up the Titicaca watershed are classified as high priority or medium priority, due to the high levels of pollution, social conflicts, water scarcity and economic impact identified.
Finally, it is important to note that the Puno region has five socio-environmental conflicts according to the Ombudsman's Office . In addition to the above, there are demands from the populations affected by contamination for the government to carry out dosages to determine the presence of heavy metals in the human body. Regarding the latter, it is worrying to note that the more studies to determine the presence of heavy metals in the human body are carried out in the Puno region, the clearer the presence of heavy metals in people's bodies becomes , . Despite these concerns and the uncertainty surrounding these projects, the company, in its attempt to promote the projects and achieve social acceptance of the local population, has begun with job offers in the communities  and has used a fallacy widely used by the mining sector, the natural presence of minerals in the earth that has never caused harm to the population, and therefore, the extracted lithium will not cause cancer. Ulises Solis, general manager of Macusani Yellowcake, has said that: "In Macusani there is radioactivity but in a natural way. It is found in the huts and in the crops. The villagers have been living with it for centuries. The curious thing is that there is not a single patient with cancer" .
Therefore, it is evident that the environmental monitoring and protection system, as well as the health system implemented by the Peruvian government, is neither efficient nor adequate to control, monitor, mitigate and demand remediation of the damages caused by mining in the Puno region, without a health care plan for people exposed to heavy metals; and under this chaotic context of vulnerability, mining activities with environmental and health impacts that are even more difficult to control and remediate are being considered.