Lithium deposit found in US may be world’s largest

Heading west for a gold rush? So 19th century. It’s 2023: Miners these days want to hear about lithium “in dem thar hills.

Driving the news: New analysis found that a volcanic crater in Nevada could hold the largest deposit of lithium in the world. 

  • The McDermitt caldera could contain up to 40 million tonnes of lithium metal, nearly double the 21 million tonnes found in Bolivia’s salt flats, previously thought to be the world’s largest.

Why it matters: Demand for lithium is forecast to jump tenfold by 2030 as production of batteries—particularly those used in electric vehicles—ramps up. 

  • Together, Canada and the US are home to around 6% of the world’s proven lithium reserves, leaving us dependent on overseas production to meet demand.

Yes, but: Discovering lithium is one thing; actually getting it out of the ground is another. We won’t know for certain that this newly-found lithium can be extracted cost-effectively until closer to 2026, when mining is expected to begin.

  • “If they can extract the lithium in a very low energy-intensive way, or in a process that does not consume much acid, then this can be economically very significant,” one geologist told reporters.

Bottom line: A massive new lithium deposit in the US that’s expected to be online by 2026 would dramatically reduce North American dependence on international miners and strengthen local clean energy supply chains.—TS