There’s a lithium mining boom, but it’s not a jobs bonanza – by Camila Domonoske (Nevada Public Radio – December 5, 2022)

The town of Tonopah, Nev., was born out of a silver rush. A frantic race to extract a natural resource created a town of more than 10,000 people — for a while. Today, Tonopah is home to a little over 2,000 people. But there’s a new mining boom in town.

You can see it when you check in at the old Mitzpah Hotel, all faded glory, ghost stories and tales about Wyatt Earp. Above the cash register, next to a chandelier, a screen advertises a lithium exploration company. And forty minutes outside of town, Silver Peak lithium mine is in the process of doubling production.

Lithium is essential to producing rechargeable batteries, like the giant ones used in electric vehicles. Demand is soaring. And, after decades of shifting production overseas, the auto industry is now racing to move supply chains back to the U.S. — especially for batteries, from raw materials all the way to assembly.

It’s a major priority for the Biden administration, which says this onshoring will reduce dependency on countries like China and boost American jobs. Mining is a part of this push — sometimes a controversial one. And there is a strong case for how domestic production of essential minerals improves the security of American supply chains.

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