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The Golden State’s Future – Welcome to Lithium Valley

image credit: esminerals.com
John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant, Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

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  • Sep 22, 2022
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Most of my readers know that my home state is California. This is also called the “Golden State” mainly because of the Gold Rush of 1849. Ditto the “Golden Gate,” which is the entry into San Francisco Bay. At the south end of this bay is Silicon Valley. Also most electric vehicles circulating in the U.S. come from Fremont’s Tesla Mothership Factory (also at the south end of the bay), and use Lithium-Ion batteries. Thus our distant past was shaped by a golden metal, but our present and future were and will be shaped by the above two silver metals.

The fact that you probably don’t know is that California has huge lithium deposits. However, like our original golden metal, it will be neither easy nor safe to extract. This post is about these deposits, and the extraction process.

Discussions
Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Sep 26, 2022

I think the more likely scenario is California simply dumping the risks of lithium production onto poor countries, with Salton Sea lithium operations wrapped around the axle by environmentalists and the state’s anti-business mindset.

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Oct 5, 2022

I came across a minor additional piece of information on this lithium recovery project. There are three firms attempting to recover lithium from the geothermal brine in Imperial Valley (far-southern California). One of them is Berkshire Hathaway. This firm had received a small grant from the Federal Government ($14.9 million). 

Apparently, the government and Berkshire Hathaway. could not reach an agreement on the terms and conditions and walked away this grant.  They are still working on the project. Go through the link below for details.

U.S. steps away from flagship lithium project with Berkshire (msn.com)

-John

Julian Silk's picture
Julian Silk on Oct 6, 2022

It might also be added that one of the countries with large lithium deposits is Chile.  Chile's President Boric is a big supporter of BDS, and was wrestled into even receiving the Israeli ambassador.  A direct quote, from 

 - 

"Boric, who was elected president earlier this year, called Israel a “murderous state” in a meeting with the Chilean Jewish community during his campaign."  The 18,000 Jews who live in Chile won't be living there much longer if this keeps up, and lithium use, unless there are enormous efforts made, will wind up supporting BDS.

 

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Oct 6, 2022

Hi Julian, thanks for the comment.

As pointed out in this paper, the Imperial Valley, CA has enough Lithium to meet future U.S. needs for many years.

Lithium is actually the 25th most abundant element in earth's crust per the Wikipedia article on Lithium, but it's widely distributed. Large concentrations like in Imperial Valley are fairly rare, but I know there are others in the U.S.

Also, I am working on a paper on an old/new fusion reactor (the Stellarator). It (and the Tokamak and inertial fusion reactors) will use lithium salts to breed tritium fuel for these reactors. The Stellarator paper will be posted on 10/13.

-John

John Benson's picture
Thank John for the Post!
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