The future of battery-powered cars depends on lithium.
And now San Diego-based EnergySource Minerals has partnered with Compass Minerals to extract the metal from supplies of brine water in Utah.
EnergySource is licensing its technology to Compass, which wants to operate a lithium mine on the Great Salt Lake. EnergySource calls it a step toward creating an American industry that will meet the soaring demand for lithium batteries in electric vehicles.
“I think we’re all trying to support each other to support this EV revolution that is coming,” said EnergySource President and CEO Eric Spomer. “The demand is just huge.”
EnergySource’s technology is called Direct Lithium Extraction, or DLE, and it mines the resource by running salty brine through a filter that absorbs the metal. It’s the technology they plan to deploy at a plant being built along the Salton Sea.
Spomer said EnergySource intends to capture underground brine water at its plant and pump it back below ground after lithium is taken from it. He said this method is much better for the environment than evaporation ponds or open-pit mines. Both of those methods are used world-wide as a means of lithium mining.
“This will be the cleanest lithium in the world,” Spomer said. “From every measure. Water use, land use, emissions. It doesn’t get any cleaner than this.”
Spomer added that extracting lithium from underground brine water is an effective secondary use of geothermal plants in Imperial County. EnergySource has long operated a geothermal energy plant there. The boiling hot water that runs turbines and produces geothermal energy is the same water that will be filtered for its deposits of lithium.
Spomer said he expects the Imperial Valley to become a major source of the valuable metal.
“I think it will happen,” he said. “I think we are going to prove it and we’ll be happy to help others to cause the Salton Sea to be developed as a power resource and a huge lithium resource.”
Spomer expects his company’s facility will ultimately mine 20,000 tons of lithium per year.