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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Wednesday May 22, 2024
Wednesday May 22, 2024

The dangers lurking beneath California’s $540 billion ‘white gold’ discovery

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Unveiling the risks associated with extracting vast lithium reserves under Salton Sea

In a groundbreaking revelation, scientists have estimated that beneath the depths of California’s Salton Sea lies a staggering $540 billion worth of ‘white gold’—lithium. While hailed as a colossal find with the potential to power over 380 million electric car batteries, concerns are emerging about the environmental hazards associated with its extraction.

The lithium, often referred to as ‘white gold’ due to its white, sand-like appearance, has already been confirmed to exist in substantial amounts, with four million tons identified through ongoing drilling. However, a recent study suggests that the total lithium reserve could reach a colossal 18 million tons, raising both excitement and apprehension.

Sammy Roth, a climate columnist for the Los Angeles Times, expressed the enormity of the discovery, stating, “They found that there’s potentially enough lithium down there to supply batteries for 382 million electric vehicles, which is more vehicles than there are on the road in the United States today. So, if we could get all that lithium, that’d be huge.”

Yet, the potential benefits may come at a considerable cost, especially for those residing in the vicinity of Salton Sea. Extracting lithium from 1,500 feet below the Earth’s surface involves complex geothermal production processes. The lithium-rich brine is extracted from thousands of feet below the surface through geothermal wells, and once lithium is separated, the remaining liquid is pumped back underground.

One major concern revolves around the significant water requirements for this mining process. The Colorado River, a vital water source for thousands of residents in the region, might face increased demand for water, potentially exacerbating the existing strain on its supply. As the world turns toward electric vehicles, the mining’s impact on water resources poses a pressing challenge.

Robert Schettler, a press information officer for the Imperial Irrigation District, acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the water needs of the mining process, adding to the growing concerns about the Colorado River’s sustainability.

The potential consequences extend beyond water supply challenges. Residents fear negative impacts on air quality, and there are concerns about potential damage to Indigenous cultural sites in the region. As the race for ‘white gold’ accelerates, the delicate balance between environmental preservation and resource extraction hangs in the balance.

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