Doctoral Researcher

Cristián Flores Fernández works with Prof. Dr. Tobias Krüger in the Hydrology and Society research group of the Department of Geography and IRI THESys. His PhD project studies the transformations and uncertainties that brine extraction for lithium and potassium mining generates in the socio-natural metabolism of the salt flats of northern Chile. From an interdisciplinary perspective and methodology, the project seeks to investigate the socio-environmental impacts of such extraction and the processes that shape the flow of water and knowledge within the intercultural territories of the Atacama and Maricunga salt flats.

The lithium production process in these areas requires the pumping and evaporation of enormous quantities of saline groundwater from deficit basins that are home to high Andean wetlands that support endemic biodiversity. Currently, 78% of the lithium imported by the European Union comes from Chile, and VW has recently commissioned detailed studies from GIZ to assess the sustainability of Chilean extraction of this non-metallic mineral, considered critical to the energy transition project.

Cristián is a lawyer and holds a degree in Social and Legal Sciences from the University of Chile and a Master in Risk and Resource Governance from the University of Heidelberg. He worked for six years as a lawyer at the Chilean State Defence Council and then as legal advisor for water, energy and transport infrastructure projects for public and privates bodies. He has also worked as a director and researcher in international and Chilean environmental NGOs and in UNEP and FONDECYT research projects on ecosystem services and socio-ecological and mining conflicts in the Norte Grande of Chile.

Research Interests

  • Socio-hydrology, socio-hydrogeology and hydro-social territories
  • Socio-ecological transformations, environmental and climate justice
  • Extractivism, post-extractivism, socio-materiality’s and development alternatives

Selected Publications

Flores Fernández, C. (2021) Dos caminos hacia la destrucción medioambiental: extractivismo verde en los salares de la Argentina y Chile. In FARN, Informe Ambiental 2021, Chapter 3, pp. 17-29.

Flores Fernández, C. (2021) El avance de la minería de Litio en el Salar de Maricunga: Desposesión por descarbonización en la última frontera del extractivismo verde. In OPSAL, Salares Andinos, Ecología de Saberes por la Protección de Nuestros Salares y Humedales. pp 219-236

Flores Fernández, C. (2020) Mito y realidad de la privatización de los servicios sanitarios urbanos. Lecciones del caso chileno. In Castro, J.E. (Ed.) Examinando las políticas del agua: lecciones de Bolivia, Chile, Francia y España, pp. 25-60.

Flores Fernández, C. (2020) Servicios Sanitarios urbanos en Chile. Revisión crítica de su gestión proivatizada a partir de la crisis sanitaria de Osorno. Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Cono Sur, 69 p.

Flores Fernández, C. (2020) The Chilean energy “transition”: between successful policy and the assimilation of a post- political energy condition. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 33(2), 173-193:

Flores Fernández, C. (2018). Challenges for Polycentric Governance of Water and Forests in Chile: Critical Review in the Context of the Chile ́s Nationally Determined Contribution. Book of Abstracts, Utrecht Conference on Earth System Governance 2018: Governing global sustainability in a complex world.