According to a recent study, the world’s largest Lithium deposit could be lying in McDermitt Caldera, somewhere along the border between Oregon and Nevada.
Scientists believe that a supervolcano that took place 16 million years ago is responsible for unearthing the treasure. If the U.S. government can resolve the resistance from indigenous people, the discovery would be a game-changer for the economy.
From digital cameras, smartphones, and laptops, to solar energy storage, the applications of Lithium are numerous. But recently, its greatest use has been found in electric vehicles (EVs). The soft silvery metal is a raw material for the Lithium-ion batteries in electric automobiles.
For several reasons, Lithium-ion batteries are the first choice for EVs. One of these is their high energy densities. These batteries can compress and store greater amounts of electrical energy in small containers than other technologies. They also have an impressive ability to survive through high and low temperatures without getting damaged.
Presently, there is a worsening global shortage of Lithium, and if things remain the same, market watchers expect a demand-supply deficit of 500,000 metric tons by 2030. Prices are also on the high side. Plus, countries like the United States remain at the mercy of China for Lithium supply. These are the reasons why the McDermitt Caldera lithium deposit discovery is great news for the Joe Biden administration.
Researchers believe that the deposit contains between 20 to 40 million metric tonnes of the mineral. This is nearly double of the Bolivian salt flat, which may soon lose its place as the biggest lithium deposit in the world with 23 million metric tons of the metal.
The study in question was funded by Lithium Americas Corporation (LAC), which is also drilling for lithium in the nearby Thacker Pass area of Nevada. Studies by the University of Oregon and some other research institutes showed that a supervolcano pushed its hot liquid magma to the clay surface of the Caldera region. The magma enriched the soil with a popular lithium source called Magnesium Smectite.
Researchers also discovered a different kind of clay in the southern part of the Caldera region called illite, which has a higher lithium concentration. Experts believe that the illite was the product of yet another burst of magma.
This discovery is also a timely lifeline to the U.S. government’s ambitious plan to migrate from a fossil-fuel-powered economy to a green one. The Biden administration is aiming to make electric vehicles account for 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030.
If this discovery proves accurate, Anouk Borst, a geologist, believes that it could “change the dynamics of lithium globally, in terms of price, security of supply, and geopolitics.”
Ironically, any plan to mine this lithium is expected to irk environmentalists who are already up in arms about the Thacker Pass lithium exploration.
Mining the lithium would cause groundwater levels to drop and endanger the habitats of sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, and golden eagles. These animals are sacred birds to the indigenous inhabitants.
The Indigenous people are also expected to resist the move to ransack their native lands for lithium. They are still protesting the destruction of Thacker Pass, which contained several caves that held high historic value.