RENO, Nev. (AP) — Environmentalists, ranchers and others have fought for years against lithium mining ventures in Nevada. Yet opposition to mining one particular desert tract for the silvery white metal used in electric car batteries is coming from unusual quarters: space.
An ancient Nevada lakebed beckons as a vast source of the coveted metal needed to produce cleaner electric energy and fight global warming. But NASA says the same site — flat as a tabletop and undisturbed like none other in the Western Hemisphere — is indispensable for calibrating the razor-sharp measurements of hundreds of satellites orbiting overhead.
At the space agency’s request, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has agreed to withdraw 36 square miles (92 square kilometers) of the eastern Nevada terrain from its inventory of federal lands open to potential mineral exploration and mining.
NASA says the long, flat piece of land above the untapped lithium deposit in Nevada’s Railroad Valley has been used for nearly three decades to get measurements just right to keep satellites and their applications functioning properly.