Nothing works in the tech world without lithium. The “white gold” is used primarily in batteries. California has gigantic deposits of lithium. Will there be a new gold rush in the Golden State?
How it all began.
The “white gold” of California, as it is already called, is located in an unreal place: the Salton Sea in the south of the state – ap former vacation paradise where now no one wants to live.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the lake, which is about a three-hour drive from Los Angeles, was touted as a recreation area where stars like Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys stayed.
In the meantime, the Salton Sea is considered a toxic waste dump: the hotels have become derelict buildings and the unemployment rate in the once prosperous region is high.
Things never turn out the way you expect.
The Salton Sea was artificially created by an accident in 1905 when a pipeline burst and water ran into the Salton depression for two years. The lake currently has neither inflows nor outflows. The water simply evaporates and therefore has a salinity that is much higher than in the ocean.
This repeatedly causes environmental disasters: in 1999, around 7.6 million fish died in the over-salted waters.
But beneath the murky, gray-brown water lies a huge treasure trove of lithium that could cover about 40 percent of the world’s current demand, according to experts. Three companies are waiting in the wings to take the valuable metal out of the ground.
How Warren Buffett invests in the future. And how you can profit from it.
According to Jonathan Weisgall of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, one of the companies driving lithium mining, 90,000 tons a year could be mined – in a market that mines 300,000 tons a year globally.
Most lithium is mined in South America, followed by Australia and China. The United States would benefit from its own lithium mining. But there is a problem. So far, no one has mined lithium on such a large scale.
Because in California, the lithium would not be exploited from mines, but extracted with the help of geothermal power plants. Eleven power plants currently extract hot brine water from the ground.
The steam is used to power turbines, and the water is then pumped back. In the future, lithium will be extracted and converted from this water. It is expected to start in 2023 at the earliest.
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