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Atacama: Renewable Energy and Mining in the High Desert of Chile

Chile

Jamey Stillings

Published May 2024

This series examines the evolving nexus between renewable energy development and mining in Chile’s Atacama Desert. It is a chapter of Jamey Stillings' long-term project, Changing Perspectives, created between 2017 and 2022.


Chile is the world's leading copper exporter and the second-largest lithium producer. The diverse geography and geology of the Atacama Desert gives it a unique set of attributes, offering excellent solar and wind potential. Since 2017, when Stillings first photographed over the Atacama, the country has tripled its renewable energy capacity. New solar, wind, and storage projects supply electricity to the grid, transmit power to population centers in the South, provide electricity and solar thermal energy to mines, and reduce mining's dependence on fossil fuels. Chile's renewable energy development is now an example for other countries and mining operations worldwide, offering hope and inspiration. Thus, a growing dynamic between the extractive mining industry and the rapidly developing renewable energy sector makes the Atacama a compelling subject.


Jamey Stillings


Photographer Jamey Stillings is known for his aerial photography of renewable energy projects around the world. Having earned a BA in Art from Willamette University and an MFA in Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology,  he has a passionate curiosity about people, cultures, technology, and the environment. Stillings' work spans fine art, documentary, and commissioned projects, all of which encourage collaboration and are open to unexpected opportunities. Increasingly, Stillings seeks projects that provide the occasion to study a subject in depth. This may be realized by documenting the evolution of a subject for years or by recording the intensity of a single day. Yet, within a diverse range of photographic interests, his personal project work focuses on issues of sustainability, and in particular, renewable energy.

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Comments (2)

Guest
May 30

This photo essay is quite disturbing. The mining of lithium in Chile, far from "hopeful and inspiring" is an ecological and social disaster. For a detailed look at the impacts of lithium mining on the Atacama people of Chile as well as the biodiversity that depends on the fragile Atacama desert ecosystem, please read False solutions to climate change: Lithium extraction at the Atacama Desert of Chile - Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

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Guest
May 30
Replying to

Mining is a complicated and difficult issue regardless of where it is done on the planet. You and I use Chilean copper and lithium everyday of our lives. We are part of those holes in the ground and evaporation ponds. We are part of the problem. Using renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint of mining is a reasonable step forward and an example for other mining operations around the world. But the main issues we face as a global culture are an ever growing human population, a consumption dependent economy, and linear single-use of resources. The other challenges we face and must address spin out from these basic issues. JS

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