Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Situated 2,300 meters above sea level and encircled by mountains, the region receives almost no rainfall and the blinding sun singes exposed human skin within minutes. But 40 meters below the salt flats lie our planet’s largest and purest reserves of the chemical element lithium. Lithium, the lightest of all metals, has the best electrochemical potential. This makes it perfect for rechargeable batteries, a technology that powers our smartphones and is expected to become even more crucial in the future. Now, a Chinese firm is attempting to gain control of the Atacama reserves.