A screenshot of a post labelling a gold mine as a lithium mine.
A Facebook post has incorrectly labelled a gold mine as a lithium mine. Image by Facebook/AAP

Meme comparing petrol car and EV impacts mislabels mine

James McManagan June 19, 2024

A photo shows a mine producing lithium for electric cars.


False. The photo shows a gold mine.

AAP FACTCHECK – A viral social media meme claims to show a photograph of a large open-pit mine producing lithium for electric cars, contrasted with an image of a single oil pumpjack.

This is false. The mine in the photo is a gold mine in Western Australia.

A Facebook post features an image of an open-cut mine overlayed with the words “Lithium for Electric Cars!” and a single pump jack overlayed with the words “Oil for Cars!”

A Facebook post labelling a gold mine as a lithium mine.
 There are lithium mines in Australia, but the photo shows a gold mine. 

A reverse image search on Google indicates the mine photo first appeared online in a 2015 article about the Southern Cross gold mine near Marvel Loch, WA, published by The West Australian.

Comparing the meme photo with Google Earth and Google Maps satellite images reveals that they depict the same mine, which is owned by Barto Gold Mining.

Barto commercial manager Regan George tells AAP FactCheck that the mine only produces gold, not lithium.

Chinese news agency Xinhua reported in 2022 that Barto was looking for potential lithium reserves at the site, and The West Australian reported in 2023 that it had “known lithium deposits.”

However, lithium has not been mined from the pit in the photograph.

University of Sydney postdoctoral research associate Dr Lian Sinclair, a mining governance expert, says gold mines are not a source of lithium.

She explains to AAP FactCheck that the two minerals “rarely, if ever, overlap.”

A worker stirs powdered lithium with his hand at  SQM processing plant
 Lithium mining has local impacts, but lower global impacts than fossil fuel extraction. 

University of Melbourne Professor Tim Werner says comparing a single mine with an oil pumpjack is “misleading” as it doesn’t portray the cumulative environmental impacts of each fuel type on a global scale.

“Making a comparison of a single mine or a single oil rigging site simply does not paint the whole picture of comparative impacts of different fuel types, and comparing the fuel types doesn’t tell the whole story of impacts for the vehicles that use these fuels,” he says.

Dr Werner says while lithium mining and oil and gas extraction have local environmental impacts, the latter is also the primary driver of human-induced climate change.

The Verdict

The claim that a photo shows a mine producing lithium for electric cars is false.

The image shows a gold mine in Western Australia.

Experts told AAP FactCheck that comparing a single mine photo with a single oil pumpjack photo is misleading as it fails to depict the higher cumulative environmental impacts of petrol vehicles.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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