NEWRY, Maine (AP) — The race is on to produce more lithium in the United States. The U.S. will need far more lithium to achieve its clean energy goals — and the industry that mines, extracts and processes the chemical element is poised to grow. But it also faces a host of challenges from environmentalists, Indigenous groups and government regulators.
Although lithium reserves are distributed widely across the globe, the U.S. is home to just one active lithium mine, in Nevada. The element is critical to development of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are seen as key to reducing climate-changing carbon emissions created by cars and other forms of transportation.
Worldwide demand for lithium was about 350,000 tons (317,517 metric tons) in 2020, but industry estimates project demand will be up to six times greater by 2030. New and potential lithium mining and extracting projects are in various stages of development in states including Maine, North Carolina, California and Nevada.
“Nobody really foresaw this huge spike in demand,” said Tim Crowley, vice president of government affairs for Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of a company developing a mine in Thacker Pass, Nevada. “We owned the lithium space for a long time, and we forfeited it to China.”
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