Free Tibet targets exploitation of lithium in Tibet

13th July 2016

Video and briefing explain how Chinese extraction harms Tibet

Free Tibet's new animated video and briefing (PDF), lay bare the environmental and social impacts of China's raid on Tibet's resources.

The launch of these new materials marks the next stage of our Grand Theft Tibet campaign to defend Tibet's environment. The video shows the effect of China's exploitation of all of Tibet's resources - including the growing threat from lithium extraction. Please share the video to spread the word about the impact of China's policies, against the wishes of the Tibetan people and at a high cost to their landscape and way of life.

The "new oil"

Lithium, sometimes referred to as the “new oil” is abundant in Tibet’s large salt lakes. As part of China’s wider move to tap into Tibet’s natural resources, several Chinese companies have moved into Tibet to extract this lithium, which is used in the batteries of consumer goods such as phones, computers and electric vehicles.

The Chinese government highlighted the economic benefits of renewable energy for China’s economy earlier this year in its new Five Year Plan. In practice, it has supported Chinese extraction companies by granting them access to salt lakes in occupied Tibet.

Tibetans have had no say in this move. All they have seen is pollution and the build-up of factories and other infrastructure across Tibet’s once pristine landscape. In May, we reported a protest in eastern Tibet after fish and cattle were poisoned by pollution from a lithium mine.


Tibet's lithium: from Tibetan lakes to your daily commute

Free Tibet’s campaign is focussing on the use of lithium in electric vehicles, including by BYD (‘Build Your Dreams’), a Chinese company that is among the largest producers of electric transport in the world. BYD has invested heavily in lithium extraction in Tibet.

BYD has signed deals with transport authorities across the world and now runs buses in over 200 cities. It has provided shuttle buses to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, rolled out electric models of London’s famous red buses and clinched one of the largest transport deals in history with the transport authority of Washington State. Both Tokyo and Paris have signed agreements to test BYD’s electric buses.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates at a BYD launch in 2010 (

Holding authorities to account

Free Tibet is contacting transport authorities to share its findings on the social and environmental damage caused by China’s extraction of lithium from occupied Tibet and ask them to account for the decision to use buses from a company deeply involved in the extraction. Watch this space to learn of developments and find out how you can get involved in the campaign.

Take action

The extraction of lithium and Tibet’s other resources is taking place without the consent of Tibetans and solely for the benefit of the Chinese government and Chinese companies. Free Tibet’s new video explains China’s plans for Tibet’s resources and they affect Tibet’s landscape and people. Give it a watch and then share it to spread the word.