GM invests in lithium mining project in California – TechCrunch

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General Motors invests in domestic lithium. The company said on Friday it had become the first investor in an Australian firm’s project to extract the mineral, a critical component of electric vehicle batteries, from the Salton Sea geothermal field near Los Angeles. The automaker will have the first rights to lithium produced by Controlled Thermal Resources’ “Hell’s Kitchen” lithium mining project.

The Hell’s Kitchen project is expected to begin producing lithium in 2024. This production would be used in GM’s Ultium battery cells, which are being manufactured in a joint venture with LG Energy Solution, after being validated and tested. While Tim Grewe, general manager of GM’s electrification strategy and cellular engineering, declined to provide details on how much lithium GM is likely to receive, he said the company expects “This is a significant amount of [GM’s] North American lithium.

GM and other automakers will need a lot of lithium if they are to meet their electrification goals. For GM, that includes completely phasing out internal combustion engines by 2035. But this large-scale transition will likely also mean increased competition – not just for customer money, but for the source minerals that make up the parts. essential such as batteries.

Typically, lithium is produced either through hard rock mining or by extracting the mineral from brine deposits. Both methods have been criticized for their impact on the environment. What sets CTR’s project apart is that it will use renewable geothermal energy – produced from the Salton Sea geothermal field, a large area of ​​the Imperial Valley that is already home to eleven geothermal power plants – to process lithium. .

In addition to being powered by renewable energy, CTR says the project uses a direct closed-loop extraction process that returns spent brine to its underground source and leaves no production residue, a sort of waste from the ground. ‘mining.

Most of the world’s lithium comes from a small number of countries, mainly Chile, Australia, China and Argentina. There is only one lithium production site in the United States, a Nevada brine operation owned by chemicals giant Albemarle. But the focus has been increasingly on increasing domestic production of ore in recent years, mainly due to two trends: the forecast demand for the ore, which is expected to increase rapidly in part due to the transition to battery electric vehicles; and a bipartisan focus on maintaining US competitiveness in emerging technologies.

According to the California Energy Commission, up to a third of the current global demand for lithium could be in the state’s lithium deposits. The CTR project is one of several projects aimed at extracting lithium from the vast brine fields of the Salton Sea.


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