Earlier this summer we saw signs that the U.S. might soon begin leading a global surge in lithium production:
That potential boom looks ready to continue in the Pacific Northwest:
A world-beating deposit of lithium along the Nevada - Oregon border could meet surging demand for this metal, according to a new analysis.
An estimated 20 to 40 million tonnes of lithium metal lie within a volcanic crater formed around 16 million years ago. This is notably larger than the lithium deposits found beneath a Bolivian salt flat, previously considered the largest deposit in the world.
Sorry, Bolivia, looks like you lose this one!
One scientist thinks that massive deposit could "change the dynamics of lithium globally, in terms of price, security of supply and geopolitics." I don't think I need to tell you that it's always much, much better when a benign global superpower like the U.S. controls that sort of thing compared to, you know, a dictatorship or a basket-case banana republic.
(Of course, that begs the question if America is now a basket-case banana republic, but I digress).
Good News Network cites this paper that shows worldwide lithium production, noting that this caldera could contain lithium that is 700% of all the lithium in all the current mines around the entire world.
(If you haven't read up on how rich America is in natural resources that our politicians won't let us access, now would be a good time.)
Statista also provides this handy chart for global lithium reserves:
Scientists say the volcano exploded in a massive magma eruption millions of years ago; a lake subsequently formed, then dried up, then another explosion took place, at which point all of that lithium somehow came together. That sounds a lot like what scientists usually say when they mean "we don't know but let's sound smart."
One expert, meanwhile, recognizes what this means for key commerce here:
"The US would have its own supply of lithium and industries would be less scared about supply shortages."
As National Review points out, however, the US has shut down or actively hampered the mining industry for decades.
Glaringly, American infrastructure doesn't yet support large-scale lithium refining. With a deposit as big as Nevada's, American companies would still have to outsource lithium production to countries with more lenient, and dangerous, environmental and labor regulations. Even if Nevada's deposit were mined today, China would be tapped to process the lithium ore. Lithium itself is valuable, but the U.S. would still rely on foreign entities to produce lithium into usable materials.
The ball is starting to move toward getting American extraction, production, and industry back in the works, but the politicians have been trying to stop it every chance they can get. This time, however, the desire to use environmentalism to raise political donations is working against the climate emergency the bigwigs with the oceanfront homes say is coming for us all.
There's also the question of if environmental groups will back down long enough for lithium to be extracted or produced. Environmentalists and Native American tribes have for years protested against land claims at Thacker Pass, where Lithium Americas discovered the deposit, even though Nevada regulates the surrounding land and groundwater.
My bet is on wherever the money leads!
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