In the high Nevadan desert near the Oregon border lies an enormous deposit of lithium, a metal that is essential in the production of electric car batteries. President Joe Biden wants to get it out of the ground. But its exploration is dividing communities which are usually on the same side of political arguments.
Environmentalists and native people cannot agree on whether a new rush for this “white gold” should be supported or fiercely opposed. “The entire environmental community is split on this thing,” says Glen Miller, who used to be on the board of local environmental charity Great Basin Resource Watch, which is opposed to mining.
In March, the diggers moved into a stunningly beautiful area called Thacker Pass, 4,000ft (1,219m) above sea level. It was formed by an ancient volcano and has sagebrush valleys ringed by desolate mountain tops. After years of legal battles, Lithium Americas had finally won its bid to mine the area.
Mr Biden has said explicitly that he wants the US to be the world leader in electric cars – and wants the lithium that is key to making them to be mined in the US. Last year he said that America had to import “close to 100%” of its lithium from countries like Australia, Chile and China.
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