environment

Renewable: Lithium promises revival for dying California inland sea

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By Paula RAMON

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We used to go to the Salton Sea to fish, swim, and boat. It was full of good eating, easily caught, Corbina. The salinity was so high that one could not sink, but the salt would stick to the skin afterwards. They used to hold the Salton Sea 500 mile boat race there every year. A friend of ours once won, back in the 1950s. The problem with the Salon Sea is that it typically fills up once a century or less, and then dries out. Maybe that is how lithium got aggregated there, from the constant filling up and drying out.

Lithium has been mined in the area before, but they were put out of business by cheap Chinese product. At one time California was the principal source of lithium in North America. Maybe now they can go back into production.

Lithium is actually pretty common in the Earth's crust. The problem is that there are only a few places where it is concentrated enough to make mining practical with current methods.

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This newly discovered method of extracting lithium from geothermal brine has created a bit of a gold rush at Imperial Valley geothermal power plants. The environmental impacts are far less than traditional lithium mining.

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