Demand for lithium is soaring in light of its key role in the production rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which have become indispensable components of portable electronics and electric vehicles. However, in spite of the fact that identified lithium resources in the United States total 4 million tons, our import dependency rate stands at 43 percent. As late as the second half of the 1990s, the U.S. was still producing 75 percent of the world’s lithium carbonate – now production is down to merely five percent. Much of the world’s current lithium supply comes from Chile, Argentina, and China, making potential supply disruptions a cause of concern.
According to an article in MIT’s Technology Review, a California startup company could help alleviate such concerns by boosting domestic production through the extraction of lithium, as well as manganese and zinc, from the brine used by geothermal plants. If successful, this technology, coupled with other U.S. lithium production efforts, two of which are underway in Nevada, could go far in reducing, and possibly even ending U.S. dependence on foreign lithium supplies.
For the sake of our economic growth, social wellbeing and economic security, this is a goal worth pursuing not only for this element, but for all critical minerals we’re blessed to have beneath our own soil.