The need to address climate change and global warming has led governments and industries to adopt more sustainable practices. These includes the use of electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines. All of these technologies rely on lithium-ion batteries for energy storage.

It’s projected that by 2040, the demand for lithium will reach 1 million metric tons. This is 700% more than total global production in 2022.

Thankfully, a new discovery in the Western United States offers promising news.

The McDermitt Caldera

An area rich in lithium has been identified in the McDermitt Caldera, located along the Oregon–Nevada border. A new study estimates that there are up to 120 million tons of lithium within this volcanic crater.

According to Interesting Engineering, the presence of high concentrations of lithium in McDermitt Caldera sediments has been known since the 1970s. In fact, the lithium inventory in these sediments is believed to be on par with, if not greater than, the lithium found in Bolivia’s salt flats. These salt flats were previously considered the largest lithium deposit on Earth.

Geologist Anouk Borst, who was not involved in the study, stated that the news could have a profound impact on the price, supply, and geopolitical implications of lithium.

The McDermitt Caldera lithium deposit can be attributed to the elevated lithium concentrations observed in lake sediments.

Researchers have discovered that illite, a mineral found in claystone, contains 1.3% to 2.4% lithium in the volcanic crater. Surprisingly, this is almost twice as much lithium as the more common magnesium smectite, the primary lithium-bearing clay mineral.

The significance of the discovery

Lithium, often referred to as “white gold,” has become a critical resource for the electric vehicle industry and renewable energy sources. However, its availability is not as abundant or evenly distributed as fossil fuels.

Concerns have been raised about the potential shortage of lithium. Previously, it was estimated that the global lithium supply would be exhausted by 2025. However, the McDermitt Caldera discovery has the potential to alter that prediction.

Before long, the US could have a self-sustained lithium supply. This would reduce America’s dependency on China, which is currently the world’s third-largest lithium producer.

According to Thomas Benson, a geologist at Lithium Americas Corporation and co-author of the study, mining operations could commence at the McDermitt Caldera as early as 2026.

The findings of the study were published in the journal Geology.

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