Largest lithium deposit found in the United States

This is good news for battery manufacturers and economy.

The United States is the home of the world’s largest deposit of lithium, a crucial metal for the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles, smartphones and computers. A deposit suspected to contain an astonishing 20 to 40 million metric tons of lithium has been discovered in the volcanic crater McDermitt Caldera on the border of Nevada and Oregon, which surpasses even Bolivia's vast salt flats with approximately 23 million tons of lithium.

A research titled “Hydrothermal enrichment of lithium in intracaldera illite-bearing claystones,” published recently in the Science Advances journal, says the McDermitt Caldera deposit is the richest lithium holding in the world. 

The Chemistry World quoted a KU Leuven University geologist, Anouk Borst as saying, "If you believe their back-of-the-envelope estimation, this is a very, very significant deposit of lithium… It could change the dynamics of lithium globally, in terms of price, security of supply and geopolitics." 

Many of the world's most substantial lithium reserves are found in brine deposits.

However, the lithium within the McDermitt Caldera, especially in its southern region known as Thacker Pass, is embedded within clay formations. The formation of the caldera occurred after a massive volcanic eruption around 16.4 million years ago, bringing forth substantial quantities of lithium and other metals.

Over time, a lake occupied the caldera, depositing a sediment layer infused with lithium, which today extends more than 600 feet deep, resulting in a type of clay known as smectite.

This was just the initial infusion of lithium. As volcanic activity resumed, hot brine containing additional lithium percolated into the existing smectite, augmenting its lithium content. Consequently, the clay transformed from smectite into a distinctive and lithium-rich illite.

This discovery is undoubtedly promising for mining operations. Not only is this specific illite richer in lithium, but it is also believed to be more easily extractable. Furthermore, the deposits are predominantly concentrated in a single area at the southern end of Thacker Pass, reducing the overall environmental footprint of mining activities.

Local environmental groups teamed up with Native American activists to obstruct any lithium extraction project in the area, but a federal court dismissed their appeals last July and construction started in early September. 

Aside from batteries, lithium is used in the production of pharmaceuticals, grease and lubricants, glass and ceramics, air conditioners and refrigerators, and is also employed in metallurgy, nuclear industry, and defense.

The exploration of the McDermitt Caldera site will likely reduce the price for lithium worldwide and will give a boost to the US economy.