Researchers from the University of Wyoming’s Carbon Management Institute (CMI) have discovered a new potentially large source of lithium near Rock Springs, Wyo., while working on a CO2 storage site project. According to the university, the U.S. currently imports more than 80% of its lithium used domestically from China.
Because lithium is used in the auto industry for electric vehicle batteries, this source could help drive down the prices associated with battery technologies. The university stated the site could provide as much as 18 million tons of lithium, which is enough to meet annual U.S. demand for this resource.
The next largest domestic production site of lithium is at Silver Peak, Nev., and contains reserves of 118,000 tons across a 20 square-mile area. The Rock Springs site discovered by CMI researchers covers a 2,000 square-mile area. If the researchers’ estimates on the amount of lithium reserves at Rock Springs pan out, this could supply enough lithium for roughly 720 years of global lithium production.
At the Rock Springs site, researchers said they analyzed fluid samples from a well drilled on the Rock Springs Uplift, which is a geological feature in southwest Wyoming, and discovered dissolved lithium in the brines in the CO2 storage reservoirs on the Rock Springs Uplift. Due to the regional availability of soda ash, and relatively low magnesium levels in the brine, CMI scientists said recovering lithium from brine could be economically feasible and not necessarily any more expensive than recovery costs at other U.S. lithium production sites.