Lithium is becoming more crucial in a warming world, but Maine’s huge deposits may never be mined because of environmental concerns – by David Abel (Boston Globe – April 1, 2023)

NEWRY, Maine — Five years ago, after much of their land had been logged in Western Maine, Gary Freeman and a colleague were bushwhacking through a thicket of raspberry shrubs and maple saplings, searching for a treasure they suspected could be buried beneath the mud and moss carpeting the sloped ground.

Following coordinates cited in a decades-old geological survey of the area, the veteran gem hunters began clearing the bramble and digging. Soon after, they hit something solid. They used hoes to scrape away the dirt and were astonished by their discovery: enormous, flaky white crystals the size of telephone poles.

“It was stunning to see,” Freeman said of the massive crystals, which took millions of years to form from the molten rock that once rose from the Earth’s mantle. “We kept digging, and they just kept coming and coming.”

What they unearthed here on the north side of Plumbago Mountain was the ore of a newly precious and highly sought metal: lithium, a vital ingredient of a carbon-free future, essential for running electric cars and storing solar energy. By some estimates, the deposits near Newry may be the largest in the country — with the potential to become a critical domestic supply for automakers and so valuable that it could provide a needed boost to Maine’s economy.

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