(Bloomberg) — The high-desert mountain pass overlooking alfalfa fields and RV parks doesn’t look like a battleground that will shape the country’s clean energy future.
But when the rock samples here are pulverized, pulled apart and mixed with chemicals, they yield a metal increasingly seen as white gold: lithium, a critical ingredient for batteries used in electric vehicles, solar energy storage, and consumer electronics.
In early 2021, the Trump administration approved plans for a $1 billion open-pit mine here at Nevada’s Thacker Pass, in a swath of government-owned land that covers 9 square miles above the country’s largest lithium deposit. The Biden administration has since defended that decision.
Supporters say the mine built by Lithium Americas, a Canadian multinational, could produce enough lithium each year to match 2020’s total global output. They also argue that expediting US battery manufacturing will help the country shift away from fossil fuels while shrinking supply chains disrupted by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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