The United States has a lithium supply problem. Nearly every major automaker has announced a transition to electric vehicles, Tesla delivered almost one million cars in 2021, and electric vehicle companies like Rivian and Lucid are rolling new models off the line.
In order to power all of these EVs, we will need batteries, lots of them. Electric vehicle growth will be responsible for more than 90% of demand for lithium by 2030, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. But lithium is also in our phones, computers, ceramics, lubricants, pharmaceuticals, and is essential for solar and wind energy storage. This vital mineral in rechargeable batteries has earned the name “white gold” and the rush is on.
But today, the U.S. is far behind, with only 1% of global lithium being mined and processed in the U.S., according to the USGS. More than 80% of the world’s raw lithium is mined in Australia, Chile, and China. And China controls more than half of the world’s lithium processing and refining and has three fourths of the lithium-ion battery megafactories in the world, according to the International Energy Agency. There is only one operating lithium mine in the U.S., Albemarle’s Silver Peak, Nevada.
But that could be changing. Last June, the Biden administration released a blueprint for jumpstarting domestic lithium production and refining as well as battery manufacturing, and set a national EV sales goal of 50% by 2030.
And there are several domestic lithium projects in the works in Nevada, North Carolina, California and Arkansas, to name a few.
Controlled Thermal Resources is developing a lithium project at the Salton Sea in California. Last summer, GM announced a multi-million-dollar investment in Controlled Thermal Resources, and has secured first rights to purchase the domestically produced lithium for its EVs.
Piedmont Lithium wants to revive an old lithium mining area in North Carolina, near Charlotte. Piedmont signed a deal in 2020 to supply Tesla with lithium sourced from its deposits there, but the project has hit delays due to permitting.
Lithium Americas plans an open-pit mine at Thacker Pass, which is located about 200 miles north of Reno, Nevada, and is one of the largest lithium reserves in the U.S.
But no one wants a mine in their backyard, and Thacker Pass and other projects have been plagued with lawsuits and opposition from environmentalists, permitting delays and opposition from Native American tribes in the area.
Watch the video to learn more, and to get an inside look at some of the domestic lithium projects in the works.
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