Welcome to Lithium Valley: California is hoping to cash in on what lies beneath the Salton Sea, but at what cost?

Lithium batteries provide the power for electric cars, the vehicles of the future – and the signs are that there are vast reserves of the mineral underneath the environmental wasteland that is the Salton Sea in southern California. But can the Golden State capitalise fully on the so-called ‘white gold rush’?

6th November, 2021
Welcome to Lithium Valley: California is hoping to cash in on what lies beneath the Salton Sea, but at what cost?
The bottom of the Salton Sea in southern California is exposed as its waters evaporate, leaving behind a huge bowl of toxic sediment atop what is believed to be one of the world’s biggest lithium deposits. Picture: Getty

The Salton Sea, California’s former upscale resort turned giant eyesore, environmental hazard and off-grid enclave, may soon enter a new iteration: this time as one of the world’s biggest sources of lithium.

The area is seeing a flurry of activity as international energy corporations and start-ups race to extract what are believed to be vast amounts of lithium from geothermal energy plants and from beneath its rapidly vanishing salt lake. Gavin...

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