Nevada, as with other arid parts of the globe such as Chile and Argentina, is awash with lithium. The soft, silvery white mineral is in high demand as a key component of batteries used to power electric vehicles in the transition away from fossil fuel-based economies.
For years, state officials have positioned Nevada as the central node in the domestic lithium supply chain, a place to extract, recycle and market the metal. But the new increasing demand — how it plays out and where mining is permitted — could have major consequences for local communities, the environment, public land and the management of a critical resource: water.
The so-called “lithium rush” is on in Nevada, but it could take years to sort through the often conflicting issues. “There really isn’t a rush,” said Mike Visher, who leads the Nevada Division of Minerals, when asked about bringing more mines online. “These projects generally take more than a decade.”
Companies face extensive permitting requirements, and regulators are being forced to confront difficult decisions about what to prioritize amid intense pressure from investors and the public.
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