While investigating the lithium content in the Salton Sea, California's largest lake, scientists stumbled upon an astonishing find, estimating the discovered element's value at a staggering $540 billion.
What began as a routine study funded by the United States Department of Energy turned into a groundbreaking revelation for scientists.
Indy100 reveals that experts now speculate the presence of approximately 18 million tons of lithium, commonly referred to as "white gold" due to its resemblance to white sand, beneath the lake's surface.
Scientists previously identified 4 million tons of lithium in the lake. However, the most recent discovery quadruples that initial estimation, positioning it as one of the largest lithium brine deposits globally.
Michael McKibben, a geochemistry professor at the University of California, Riverside, and one of 22 authors of the study, expressed the potential significance: "This could make the United States completely self-sufficient in lithium and stop importing it through China," Indy100 reported.
Imperial County, where the lake is situated, had already adopted the moniker "Lithium Valley" in acknowledgment of the substantial lithium reservoir beneath its surface, according to SFGATE.com.
Journalist Sammy Roth from the Los Angeles Times highlighted the potential impact of this discovery on KJZZ-FM radio, stating that there might be enough lithium to supply batteries for 382 million electric vehicles.
Despite the promising prospect, accessing the resource poses considerable challenges.
It would require “geothermal production wells to extract lithium-rich brine from thousands of feet below the earth’s surface,” SFGATE.com reported. Then, “once the lithium is dissolved from the brine, the liquid is pumped back underground.”
The outlet notes that this process could adversely affect the local population of 180,000, jeopardizing the water supply due to the substantial amount of water required for drilling.
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However, the positive implications might outweigh the challenges. Imperial County anticipates economic benefits from lithium extraction, with plans to impose taxes on the process, as outlined in a March news release.
Sara Griffen, executive director of the Imperial Valley Food Bank, expressed hope for the region's future in a public comment about proposed lithium taxes. "We need to be able to dream about this County and fully envision what it would look like if it were better for everyone and people want to come and join us," she said.
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