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California’s ‘Lithium Valley’ Set to Transform Global Battery Market

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Imperial County, dubbed "Lithium Valley," could become a global lithium hub, a potential $7B annual industry, despite environmental concerns. (Shutterstock)
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Imperial County, a remote desert region in Southern California, is set to become a significant player in the global lithium market.

The area, known as Lithium Valley, is estimated to hold around 3,400 kilotons of lithium, a mineral crucial for battery production. With the surge in demand for electric vehicles, the need for lithium is expected to increase by 4,000% in the coming decades.

The Salton Sea region, part of Imperial County, is believed to have the world’s highest concentration of lithium in geothermal brines. The extraction of this mineral could potentially generate over $7 billion annually, based on the 2020 price of $12,000 per ton. However, the extraction process is complex and requires significant water resources, raising concerns about the impact on the region’s water supply, particularly the Colorado River.

$30 Million in Taxes Annually to Impoverished Area?

Despite these challenges, the local community largely supports the mining operation, as it promises to bring much-needed economic relief to the area. The county plans to tax lithium extraction, with 80% of the revenue going directly to the county and at least 30% being spent on local community projects. The tax revenue from lithium production could reach up to $30 million per year.

However, there are still many unknowns, including potential damage to the region’s water, air, and indigenous cultural sites. The operation could also impact the health of local residents, particularly children who already suffer from high rates of asthma, likely due to toxic air particles from the receding Salton Sea.

Read more at SFGate.

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