Scientists have unveiled a monumental discovery: the potential largest lithium deposit on the planet. This treasure is hidden beneath the remnants of an ancient supervolcano, located on the border between Nevada and Oregon in the United States.
Initial estimates suggest there are between 20 and 40 million metric tons of lithium within the sediments of the McDermitt caldera, according to a study published in Science magazine.
Originating from a massive volcanic eruption and the subsequent collapse of the volcano, the McDermitt caldera spans roughly 28 miles in length and 22 miles in width. If these figures hold true, this deposit would surpass the renowned salt flats of Bolivia, which hold about 23 million tons of the mineral.
World’s Largest Lithium Treasure Found Beneath U.S. Volcano
Lithium is crucial in the manufacturing of rechargeable batteries, making this discovery immensely significant. However, tapping into this resource won’t be straightforward.
The study, conducted by Lithium Americas Corporation, delves into the formation of this vast deposit. It’s believed that a cataclysmic eruption, which took place around 16.4 million years ago, propelled lithium-rich minerals from the Earth’s core.
It’s vital to note that the lithium isn’t evenly distributed throughout the caldera. The richest zone is located in the southern half, near Thacker Pass, extending northward to Montana’s mountains.
Armed with this knowledge, Lithium Americas Corporation is set to ramp up exploration efforts in Thacker Pass, identified as a strategic point for mining.
However, extracting lithium from the McDermitt Caldera has raised concerns. Despite being pivotal for the transition to clean energies, the exploitation of this resource faces criticism for its potential environmental and social impact.
Demand for lithium batteries is projected to quintuple by 2030. Yet, the proposal to construct an open-pit lithium mine has met resistance from activists and indigenous communities.
These groups argue that the mine threatens to industrialize their ancestral lands, underscoring the caldera’s cultural significance.
Tom Benson, author of the study and a member of Lithium Americas Corporation, told Popular Science: “We now know we need to stick to the Thacker Pass area if we want to find and extract that lithium.”
With information from Science