Add news
March 2010April 2010May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020September 2020October 2020November 2020December 2020January 2021February 2021March 2021April 2021May 2021June 2021July 2021August 2021September 2021October 2021November 2021December 2021January 2022February 2022March 2022April 2022May 2022June 2022July 2022August 2022September 2022October 2022November 2022December 2022January 2023February 2023March 2023April 2023May 2023June 2023
News Every Day |

Startups are zeroing in on cleaner ways to mine the lithium needed for electric vehicles

The Great Transition Series: An employee holds processed lithium next to a rechargeable battery surrounded by sustainability graphic elements

One Planet Banner Test

Teague Egan's tour of Bolivia's famed salt flat in 2018 changed the trajectory of his career. 

The flat is called Salar de Uyuni. The seemingly endless expanse of chalky white crust is home to the world's largest reserves of lithium, a key ingredient in batteries. The flat is largely untapped. 

Egan saw an opportunity. 

Lithium is a pivotal material in batteries because it helps store energy and can be recharged. Demand for the metal could grow more than 40 times by 2040 as countries try to meet climate goals by moving away from fossil-fuel-powered cars and electric grids. 

Most lithium is extracted in two ways — and they haven't changed much in decades and can harm the environment. One is open-pit mining; the other is pumping salty water, known as brine, into large evaporation ponds where the sun helps concentrate lithium over time. These approaches require a lot of land, water, and chemicals, and leave waste behind.

"Lithium has never been needed like this before, so there hasn't been a lot of research and development," Egan, an early investor in Tesla, told Insider. "I saw an opportunity to reinvent how it's produced. That's what got me excited." 

Over the past five years, Egan, the founder and CEO of EnergyX, pulled together a team of 55 people — 30 of them scientists and engineers — to develop technologies to produce lithium from brine underneath the Earth's surface. The Austin-based EnergyX is among a roster of startups and mining giants testing what's called direct lithium extraction, which can pull out far more lithium in less time and might let miners skip evaporation ponds altogether. 

Demand for lithium and other minerals will soar in the coming decades, so the pursuit reflects mounting pressure on the mining industry to clean up its environmental record. Even though research shows that switching from gas-powered cars to EVs significantly reduces greenhouse-gas emissions — even when accounting for mining raw materials — communities where mines are located have often been left to grapple with ruinous consequences.

Hundreds of new mines for the energy transition

The market analyst Benchmark Mineral Intelligence found that 384 new lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite mines could be needed globally by 2035. That raises alarm among conservation groups and Indigenous tribes who often live on or near land where metals essential to the energy transition are located. 

At least in the near term, most lithium supplies will continue to come from open-pit mining and brine from evaporation ponds because the new technologies being tested by EnergyX and other companies haven't reached commercial scale. EnergyX doesn't expect to be fully commercialized until 2025. 

But the field is moving fast. The US isn't a major lithium miner, but 15 projects across the country are at various stages of development and nearly half involve direct lithium extraction, according to Insider's review of a list compiled by Jay Turner, an environmental studies professor at Wellesley College. Turner and his students started tracking the investments in the EV supply chain in North America after President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act last year. 

To qualify for tax credits, the IRA requires an escalating percentage of lithium and other critical minerals in a battery to come from the US or a country with close trading ties to the US. That percentage will rise each year until it reaches 80%.

Minimal fresh water and chemicals

Egan said EnergyX's pilot in Bolivia last year demonstrated a 94% lithium-extraction rate from brine in evaporation ponds in a few days, much higher than the current industry standard of 30% over 18 to 24 months. EnergyX's technologies involve sending brine through resin beads that absorb the lithium. The process also adds solvents to concentrate and extract the mineral and uses membranes to filter out impurities. Egan said that minimal fresh water and chemicals are used, and brine can be reinjected back underground to minimize disturbances to the water table.

EnergyX lost a bid to help develop Bolivia's lithium resources; the government in January chose Chinese firms instead, which also plan to use direct lithium extraction rather than evaporation ponds. 

EnergyX is building five other test beds, including in Chile and Argentina, which, along with Bolivia, comprise what's called "the Lithium Triangle." In April, Chile, the second-largest producer of the metal behind Australia, announced plans to nationalize its industry and favor direct lithium extraction.  

The three other EnergyX sites are in the US, including California's Salton Sea. That region is a major test bed for direct lithium extraction, in part because hot brine is already being pumped to power geothermal power plants. Three companies — Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Controlled Thermal Resources, and EnergySource Minerals — are leading the development. 

Controlled Thermal Resources told Insider it expects to deliver 25,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium hydroxide in 2025, and EnergySource Minerals predicts a similar timeline for its first deliveries.

The California Energy Commission estimates the Salton Sea region is capable of pumping out 600,000 tons of lithium annually, more than what the world produces today. 

All the momentum is aided by automakers eager to secure lithium supplies with lower environmental impacts. General Motors' venture-capital arm led a $50 million fundraising round for EnergyX, and it has a partnership with Controlled Thermal Resources.

'The world needs these critical minerals'

But until direct lithium extraction can be done at scale, automakers still need to source lithium from open-pit-mining sites or the brine from evaporation ponds to keep pace with the growing demand for electric vehicles. 

In January, General Motors made a $650 million investment in Lithium Americas, which is developing an open-pit lithium mine in Nevada called Thacker Pass. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court refused to temporarily halt the project while considering a lawsuit filed by environmental groups and several tribes who argued that Thacker Pass is on sacred land.

Tim Crowley, a spokesman for Lithium Americas, said in a statement to Insider that the company is building Thacker Pass based on a decade of analyses and engagement. The project will recycle more than 80% of the water used and mostly be powered by a carbon-free, heat-capture system.

He added that while direct lithium extraction is promising, it is still mostly speculative and would likely only meet a portion of the supply gap for lithium for at least several decades.

Albemarle, which counts Tesla and other automakers as customers, operates the only active lithium mine in the US in Silver Peak, Nevada, by tapping brines from evaporation ponds. The company aims to double Silver Peak's production by 2025 as well as reopen an open-pit-mining site in North Carolina known as Kings Mountain. The moves are part of the company's larger global expansion plans for lithium across the US, Chile, and Australia to further cement itself in the electric-vehicle supply chain. 

Ellen Lenny-Pessagno, Albemarle's global vice president of external affairs and sustainability, told Insider that the company is trying to expand in an environmentally and socially responsible way. 

Albemarle plans to eventually have all its mines audited by the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, a voluntary third-party standard that is more rigorous than US mining laws. One operation in Chile's Salar de Atacama is already undergoing review. The company is investing in renewable energy, technology that reduces freshwater use, and engaging with local communities about the environmental impacts, Lenny-Pessagno said.

"There are impacts," she told Insider. "There are impacts if you build a city park. But there's also a lot of positive things we're bringing along the way. The world needs these critical minerals."

Albemarle is exploring direct lithium extraction and has its own technology for this. The company evaluated the most promising tech for direct lithium extraction for its operations in Salar de Atacama, Lenny-Pessagno said, but there were several reasons for not moving forward yet.

The technology is energy-intensive and the company didn't have access to 100% renewable power in the region until several months ago. The process also required a lot of fresh water, so the company is working toward using desalinated water instead.

"We need to be perfectly assured that it won't create any unforeseen environmental issues," Lenny-Pessagno said. "We're fully committed to moving forward on direct lithium extraction. But it's going to be a process that takes time."

This article is part of "The Great Transition," a series covering the big changes across industries that are leading to a more sustainable future. For more climate-action news, visit Insider's One Planet hub.

Read the original article on Business Insider
Новости 24 часа

Проект «Человек дела» на «Авторадио» собрал более 700 заявок от предпринимателей со всей России

Shameik Moore, Issa Rae & Hailee Steinfeld Answer The Web's Most Searched Questions WIRED

Lian Li Ultra High-Perf Coolers, Fan Engineering, & New SUP-01 Cases, ft. CEO

Collapse and Expand the Ribbon in Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint

Mason s Irresistible Handheld Chicken Pot Pies

Read also

Nikola Jokic was comically unfazed by the greatness of his own historic performance

Kaley Cuoco says she had a body double do her sex scenes in new crime-comedy series because it's 'not my thing': 'I need someone else to do that stuff'

The 28th Amendment is Newsom’s latest hollow political stunt

News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on

News Every Day

Lian Li Ultra High-Perf Coolers, Fan Engineering, & New SUP-01 Cases, ft. CEO — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here

News Every Day

Shameik Moore, Issa Rae & Hailee Steinfeld Answer The Web's Most Searched Questions WIRED

Sports today

Новости тенниса

В России нашли иронию в победе Елены Рыбакиной на Уимблдоне

Спорт в России и мире

«Газпром-Медиа Холдинг» при поддержке ПАО «Газпром» проведет впечатляющий праздник в День России

All sports news today

Sports in Russia today


GoodHelper продолжает инвестировать в скорость: отечественный вендор бытовой техники выступил спонсором гонщиков Чемпионата Turbo Racing Cup

Новости России

Game News

Dark Lands


ФСИН рассказала о количестве встреч Алексея Навального с адвокатом и посылках в колонию

Губернаторы России
Дарья Мороз

Евгений Миронов, Ирина Пегова, Дарья Мороз, Алиса Гребенщикова, Петр Дранга и другие звезды на детском фестивале искусств НЕБО

Проект «Человек дела» на «Авторадио» собрал более 700 заявок от предпринимателей со всей России

Гороскоп на лето-2023: что произойдет в жизни каждого знака зодиака

Научная конференция по медицинскому праву прошла в МОНИКИ

«Этот шаблон неприменим»: Индия отказывается присоединяться к формату НАТО+

Композитор Юрий Антонов госпитализирован с сердечным приступом в Москве

Супруга Джигана Оксана Самойлова рассказала, как изменила жизнь ради долголетия

"Помогите!": Губерниев снова публично посмеялся над Бузовой

Июньские концерты группы «Ночные снайперы» перенесли из-за состояния здоровья Дианы Арбениной

В топ-10 рейтинга ATP впервые войдут трое россиян

Теннисистка из Пятигорска завершила участие в парижском чемпионате

Жукаев не смог выйти во второй круг турнира в США

Теннисист Хачанов заявил, что в конце матча 1/4 финала "Ролан Гаррос" у него заболела нога

В России стартовал уникальный культурно-патриотический проект «Неизвестные песни военных лет»

Lipatov sound сообщил о выходе нового трека "Dark violin"

Дешёвый кондиционер с установкой в Краснодаре теперь можно заказать и у профессионалов из ДомаХолодно

LIFE PAY рассказывает как ИП вносить или снимать деньги с расчетного счета

"Сотворение Мира" - новая выставка в Долгопрудном. Фоторепортаж

Нагорный Карабах – цена аналитики от МИД РФ: Михаил Александров

Журналист Карпов: "Локомотив" намерен приобрести полузащитника "Спартака" Зиньковского

Адвокат Бишенов Алим Султанович кинул своих сотрудников на 4 миллиона и продолжает набирать новые кадры

Безсонов: спецназ задержал вступившего в РДК победителя «Битвы экстрасенсов» Волхова

Враги рядом, враги везде

С 10 июня платить больше не придется. Всех, у кого есть кредит или ипотека, ждет сюрприз

АиФ: Шансы на излечение 14-летнего подростка, которого поджег одноклассник, невелики

Путин в России и мире

Персональные новости
Диана Арбенина

Диана Арбенина сообщила о предстоящих концертах в России

News Every Day

Shameik Moore, Issa Rae & Hailee Steinfeld Answer The Web's Most Searched Questions WIRED

Friends of Today24

Музыкальные новости

Персональные новости