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Salton Sea: A green treasure beneath a cursed lake

Salton Sea: A green treasure beneath a cursed lake

Environmentally sound management It claims to be one step ahead of its competitors.

First because the company already operates a geothermal power plant on site, but also because it claims to have designed a highly effective technology for recovering lithium from a highly mineralized brine extracted from the ground, which is no mean feat.

Michael McKibben sums up the challenge: The conditions are extreme. The brine is very hot, very salty and acidic and therefore highly corrosive. Then there is the flow. They process 50,000 gallons of brine per minute, which is the equivalent of trying to drink from a fire hose.

In a shipping container converted into a laboratory, Davis Dick, development director at… Environmentally sound managementproudly displays its construction consisting of a series of tubes, applying a patented process called ILiAD.

It's like a Brita filter, but in reverseHe explains, showing two jars, one rust-colored and the other transparent, representing the pre- and post-filtration phase. The brine is passed through this filter which selectively absorbs the lithium and allows other impurities to pass through.

He claims the process recovers 90% of the lithium in the liquid.

The salty water beneath the surface of the Salton Sea is said to contain enough lithium to make batteries for 375 million electric cars.

What makes it a sustainable resource is that there is no need to extract the ore from the ground. The only work that needs to be done is to recover the lithium from the saline solution before reinjecting it. »

Quote from David Dick, Head of Development, Energy Source Minerals
A mountain of salty earth.

This former Tesla executive claims that the lithium extraction process in the Salton Sea will be one of the cleanest in the world.

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We far outperform all current operations in terms of land use, water use and above all carbon footprintHe says.

The use of renewable energy from geothermal plants available on site and the fact that it is not necessary to transport the ore for processing, will make it possible, he says, to emit 80% less carbon than competitors in China or in Latin America. America.

David Dick says construction work on the Calipatria plant is imminent. We will produce 20,000 tons of lithium hydroxide, which is enough lithium to make about half a million electric cars a year.

Production could begin as early as 2026, according to him. Provided, of course, that financing is in place.

Geothermal power plant.

However, predictions should be taken with caution, warns Michel Jebrak, emeritus professor at UQAM, specialist in metallic mineral resources and author of the book. Lithium's goal: success in the energy transition.

These are statements of anticipation for capitalAnd he warns.

For him, direct extraction of lithium from brine solutions offers clear advantages. The lack of an evaporation lake allows for almost instant recovery. Therefore, it is better than current spodumene and clay mines.

He adds, however, that he praised the process Environmentally sound management It has not yet been proven on a large scale. According to him, the Salton Sea sediments do not offer an exceptional concentration of lithium either.

In short, the main advantage of lithium ca, according to professorUQAMThe goal is to allow the United States to free itself from its dependence on China.

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For geologist Michael McKibbin, these geostrategic arguments carry great weight when it comes to assessing the potential of the Salton Sea.

Environmental aspects too.

There are lots of good environmental reasons to do this here. Plumbing is already in place. The power plants are all there. So why not just add a filter to collect the lithium? »

Quote from Michael McKibbin, Geologist, University of California, Riverside