Lithium is quickly becoming a very important mineral that many mining companies in the United States are now looking for. An increasing demand for lithium has been driven by the growing demand for electric cars which mainly use lithium-ion batteries.
The growing desire for mobile phones and especially smartphones which use lithium-ion batteries has also helped increase the demand for these batteries. It is expected that continued growth in the use of electric cars will keep driving the demand for lithium in future.
Uses for Lithium
Lithium has been used in the world for many uses. It has been applied in many industries from agriculture, construction, and manufacturing among others. Some of the important uses of lithium driving the demand in the United States include:
The focus towards green energy in the United States puts a lot of promise on the demand for lithium. The desire to reduce emissions from petroleum products has fuelled the demand for electric cars in the United States and the world.
The growth in demand for electric cars by car makers such as Tesla has already increased demand for lithium-ion batteries. This is a good sign for lithium miners because already it is projected that the demand for electric vehicles in the United States and Europe is likely to keep rising.
As the world becomes computerized so does the increase in demand for lithium to produce lithium-ion batteries for computing devices. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets among other computing devices use lithium-ion batteries to operate. This has played an important role in the increase in demand for lithium.
Already a lot of other specialized computing devices used in hospitals, manufacturing industries, and many other places use lithium-ion batteries. This continued demand for lithium batteries is likely to keep growing as many things become computerized. This is further helped by the factor that there has been a growing demand for mobile phones and this demand is projected to keep rising as the world population grows.
Traditionally the pharmaceutical market has been the largest users of lithium in the United States. Lithium carbonate is known to have calming properties and is used in many medications to help relieve pain and calm the patients. The growth in the pharmaceutical sector signals continued demand for lithium and although the total demand for this sector in the United States will likely lag behind the explosion in lithium-ion batteries for these more modern technological needs.
Lithium has also been used in many other industries in the United States. The firms manufacturing glass for vehicles, homes and other industrial use have over the years been using lithium for the past fifty years. Lithium is also used in the manufacture of ceramics. This takes a significant amount of lithium mined in the country. Lithium is also used widely in the manufacture of greases and other lubricants in the country.
Major Producer of Lithium in the United States
So now that we have a better understanding of what lithium is used for and how it is likely to be needed in the future, we need to know where to mine the stuff!
The growth in demand for lithium has already caused a stir in the mining sector. Already there are several startups and a number of established mining firms seeking to establish themselves in the sector.
In many ways, prospecting for lithium is no different than any other mineral. A prospector simply needs to research probably areas based on historical knowledge and geological indicators. From there, it’s simply a matter of getting out and searching for it.
Some of the major sources of lithium in the United States include:
Clayton Valley (Nevada)
Clayton Valley in Nevada has been producing Lithium in the United States since the 1960s.
There are three important firms that mine lithium in the Clayton Valley. The first company to start producing lithium in the Clayton Valley is the Albemarle Corp, a North Carolina based mining firm which is also one of the leading lithium producers in the world. The company operates the Silver Peak brine mine which has been in operation for over 20 years.
Another important minor in the Clayton Valley is the Lithium X Energy Corp, a Canadian firm with huge interests in lithium mining in both the United States and in Argentina. The firm owns an 11,000 acres mining site just next to that owned by Albemarle in the valley.
This is just a short distance from the 9,500-acre lithium mining site owned by another Canadian firm, Pure Energy Minerals Ltd. Pure Minerals is one of the leading lithium supplies to Tesla Inc.’s Giga-factory.
In Clayton Valley, about 900-1200 feet below the ground surfaces lays a layer of gravel that has large amounts of brine. To mine lithium from the valley, wells are drilled to the gravel layer and then the brine is pumped out into large ponds where it is evaporated using the hot Nevada sun.
The lithium is then collected and refined for industrial use.
Imperial Valley (California)
Just like Clayton Valley, the Imperial Valley has huge amounts of briny water that contains large amounts of lithium below its surface.
The heated briny water was mainly used to produce electricity, but starting in 2007 a company known as Simbol Materials set up a plant to process lithium from the brine water used in the power plant.
Over the past few years, the Company’s lithium mining facility next to the Featherstone Geothermal Plant has produced hundreds of tons of lithium.
King Valley (Nevada)
The Western Lithium Corporation has been exploring the King Valley in Northern Nevada for lithium rich clay for the past couple of years. Already the company has a pilot project in the valley and is expected that commercial production will start in the next five years.
Additional Lithium Locations
The potential to find new rich lithium deposits is very high. Only in recent years has there been such interest in this mineral. Increased price means more prospectors out there looking for it.
While it may be the large mining companies that are most interested in lithium mining, even a small-scale prospector can get in on the action.
Ancient dry lake beds are the best sources of lithium that we know of, and these sites are getting claimed up quickly. Many parts of the Great Basin and Southwest are covered with these lake beds and they hold great potential for lithium. Exploration in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona is very likely for the foreseeable future.
The boom has already started, that is for certain. Only time will tell whether this is another “boom and bust” like so many other minerals in the past, or whether lithium is here to stay.
With the expectation that use of electric cars and various battery powered devices is only going to increase, most believe that lithium is here to stay.