Salton Sea
Image by Yunpeng Li // Getty Images

Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) Chief Executive Officer Rod Colwell told Yahoo Finance that California’s Salton Sea might be one of the best places in the United States for mining lithium, which is critically needed for the production of electric car batteries. Most lithium is currently imported from China, but many automakers and mining firms are looking to find means of production in the U.S.  

Colwell said the Salton Sea area, which has been called the “Saudi Arabia of Lithium” is “a very defined boundary, very defined field, and so you can put a well down anywhere within the field and you know, strike white gold, if you want to call it that.” He added the site would be “the largest [lithium mine] on the planet” and claimed the spot “can source enough ‘white gold’ to be used in every electric vehicle manufactured in the U.S. and still have enough saved up to export abroad.”

CTR has already broken ground on a lithium mining plant in the region. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted earlier this month that the price of one ton of lithium has jumped from $4,450 in 2012 to $78,032 this year and added, “Tesla might actually have to get into the mining & refining directly at scale, unless costs improve.” He said that there is plenty of lithium globally, but “the pace of extraction/refinement is slow.” For reference, the production of each EV battery requires around 20 pounds of lithium. 

The project has faced some controversy, as the State of California has tried to fix up the lake and the surrounding areas for years to improve environmental conditions and health conditions for local residents. However, according to Frank Ruiz, the Program Director for the Salton Sea, “Industries are well known to fall short on their promises.”

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