As demand soars for electric vehicles and clean energy storage, Australia is rising to meet much of the world’s demand for lithium. While this helps reduce the need for fossil fuels, it raises another question – how can we source lithium sustainably?
Roughly a three-hour drive south of Perth, Western Australia, off the South Western Highway and behind the historic mining town of Greenbushes, the land beyond the town’s primary school falls away to reveal a deep, grey scar.
This is the site of an old tin mine known as the Cornwall Pit. At roughly 265m (870ft) deep, the terraced wall of the pit represents a century’s worth of work that began in 1888 when a pound of tin was lifted out of a nearby creek. When the surface-metal was scoured from the landscape, methods changed eventually giving way to open-cut mining in the host pegmatite vein – an igneous rock with a coarse texture similar to granite.
In 1980, another metal was found at Greenbushes which, at the time, didn’t give the mine owners much pause for thought. Lithium, a soft, silvery-white reactive alkali metal, was considered more of a geological oddity.
A small-scale mining operation began in 1983, extracting lithium for use in niche industrial operations like glass making, steel, castings, ceramics, lubricants and metal alloys.
For the rest of this article: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20221110-how-australia-became-the-worlds-greatest-lithium-supplier