Wednesday, December 5, 2018

USA, California: Imperial County Recommends a “Lithium Task Force” to Bring Together Stakeholders in Extraction Efforts at the Salton Sea

Officials see big potential for lithium extraction in Valley (Imperial Valley Press)

Hell's Kitchen 2, by Darrell Cornett, Darco Productions, El Centro, California, USA.
Hell's Kitchen Geothermal Fields Salton Sea California 2017.
Third Place GRC Photo Contest 2017.

Could Imperial County be the next hotbed of commercial lithium mining? County officials certainly hope so. The Imperial County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a comment letter to the California Energy Commission regarding the prospect of recovering the mineral lithium from geothermal brine at the Salton Sea.

“This potential new industry holds a great deal of promise for new job creation and economic development here in Imperial County. In addition, it could serve to provide an important domestic source of a critical resource that is a key component in batteries that can be used to improve electric grid reliability and electric vehicle deployment in the state of California.

“In addition, mineral extraction, in conjunction with other renewable energy development around the Salton Sea should contribute to ongoing efforts to address issue around the troubled body of water,” the county wrote in a comment letter signed by county Supervisors Chairman Ray Castillo.

In the process of mining geothermal energy, hot brine is extracted from the earth, and minerals such as lithium, zinc and manganese are present in the hot fluid, Deputy County Executive Officer Andy Horne said. Collecting those minerals has long proven a reality, but doing so on a large-scale, commercial and economically feasible basis has yet to be done.

Horne said county officials were to meet with Berkshire Hathaway Energy (which owns CalEnergy geothermal operations) officials today to talk about lithium recovery. “I think our board is very optimistic about this. It’s been talked about for some time, but it’s gathering momentum to move this forward at some very high levels, and I think that’s encouraging,” Horne said.

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