In remote Nevada valley, race for more lithium comes down to water – Daniel Rothberg (Nevada Independent – October 31, 2022)

There is an otherworldly feel to the crystalline-blue evaporation ponds that sit in Clayton Valley, an arid area in Nevada’s least populated county, Esmeralda. From above, the ponds look like a grid of pooled water arranged in a gradient that moves from a deep-sea blue to a light-sky tone. The man-made desert pools contain what is naturally underneath the ground: water.

Pumps, drilled deep into the Earth, pull brine from an underground aquifer, and pipes move the salty water into the expansive holding ponds. This is not just any water. It is rich in lithium, a mineral needed for electric cars and large-scale storage batteries, technologies in high demand as countries and industries seek to decarbonize national economies and electric grids.

In the United States, policymakers see these pools and the valley surrounding them as playing a central role. The ponds are part of the Silver Peak mine, an operation run by Albemarle, a global lithium player based in North Carolina. For many years, this mine was the country’s only active domestic lithium source. As lithium prices have skyrocketed, more mines have looked to come online — and Albemarle is looking to expand its footprint and operations in Clayton Valley.

During a recent media tour of Silver Peak, Karen Narwold, Albemarle’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said the expansion could double output. Currently, Silver Peak can produce about 5,000 metric tons of lithium per year (one metric ton is about 2,205 pounds).

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