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Lithium Mining in the West


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#21 ski3pin

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Posted 09 June 2021 - 07:10 PM

Here is another interesting one. A "sea" that was filled by accident in California and is now dead holds one third of the global supply of lithium.

 

Salton Sea is Key to California's EV Future


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#22 Foy

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Posted 09 June 2021 - 10:36 PM

If I'm not mistaken, the presence of the Accidental Sea at the surface has nothing to do with the geothermal power resource or the developing processes to extract lithium from the brine which occurs at some apparently considerable depth below the "sea".  The questions about the source of the brines and the depths at which they occur are probably fairly readily determinable but for the time being, I suspect the arrival of the sea at the surface 100 years ago has little to no impact on the resource aquifer much deeper in the graben.

 

But it's fascinating to read about the State Gummint's enthusiasm towards development of the resource!  There's even a catchy new name in play: The Lithium Valley!  Again, this skeptical curmudgeon's Gummint BS radar is buzzing loudly. 

 

I earnestly hope to see gobs of lithium produced in the area of the Salton Sea a responsible and profitable manner, but when Gummint enthusiasm such as this suddenly pops up, I sense some other interests are about to get trampled.

 

That which seems too good to be true, often is.

 

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#23 AWG_Pics

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Posted 10 June 2021 - 12:22 AM

Foy, I have yet to meet a fellow geologist who is not a skeptic at heart. I share your sentiments. My take is there are many "garbage to gold" schemes out there, but very few pan out. I would love to be proven wrong on this one.


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#24 teledork

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 02:14 PM

So, will all this lithium mining have any effect on climate change?

 

I've pulled some quotes, the full article is at:

 

https://www.sierrane...2dpA7BkB2jIKLD4

 

"…..analysis from the Center For Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice says that electrification of cars will only reduce national emissions by 6 percent. Since transportation accounts for 29 percent of U.S. Greenhouse Gas emissions, that 6% reduction only accounts for a 20 percent reduction in overall transportation emissions. Eighty percent remains. 

 

Manufacturing an electric car and its battery releases around 9 tons of CO2 emissions. On top of this, most electricity generation (roughly 64 percent) that powers electric vehicles still comes from gas, oil, and coal. Most of the rest comes from nuclear power and hydropower, which have their own associated atrocities (choked rivers, plummeting salmon populations, and radioactive waste that will last billions of years) as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Solar and wind energy make up an increasing, but still small, proportion of the power supply, and Nevada is paying the price: solar sprawl is bulldozing through critical Mojave desert tortoise habitat, and wind turbines are knocking birds and bats from the sky en masse.

 

All this is why the CEO of Toyota, the largest car company in the world, recently said that “The more EVs [Electric Vehicles] we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets.”

 

Extractive industries like mining are responsible for half the world’s carbon emissions and more than 80% of species extinctions. "

 

 

There are also plans to use huge banks of lithium batteries for on site storage of electricity. Apparently there is a rule( or policy or something) that the so-called "sustainable" energy cannot exceed a certain threshold of production which would lower the price of electricity. Since "peak" power hours continue after sunset (when winds often die down as well) it seems storage would solve this problem. But ........ 

 

I have experienced how poorly lithium batteries fare in the cold. And if they get too hot they can catch on fire. So these massive banks of lithium batteries, likely to be housed in metal buildings in the desert, will need to be heated and cooled. To what extent and how much of a parasitic drain the heating and cooling will be, is unknown. 

 

- the latter two paragraphs are information from a podcast - if I can find it again I'll post it up but I believe the interviewee was the director of Basin and Range Watch


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#25 searching for nowhere

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Posted 19 July 2021 - 02:28 PM

Thanks for sharing this information.  It encourages me to do more digging into the facts around Green plans.  I'll be looking for other sources since everyone seems to have their own bias.  One simple step forward is for everyone to assess their own energy usage and see if it can be reduced.  


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#26 Foy

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Posted 19 July 2021 - 08:54 PM

So, will all this lithium mining have any effect on climate change?

 

 

 

Maybe, maybe not.  Perhaps about as much as cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline will have, which is to say "so close to zero it can't be measured".  Changeover to EVs with lithium batteries and mega scale power storage for solar and wind power is nice to imagine but it's tough for even the most optimistic of objective observers to estimate how, or even if, whatever warming trends there are may be affected by the changeover.

 

Really not trying to be too cynical here, and not trying to start a flame war or any sort of dispute with a community whose members I value greatly, but this old geologist sees the big picture as one in which this planet's climate has been changing since it was formed.  We've had everything from "snowball earth" to an earth's surface temps in the hundreds of degrees C.  Sea levels have changed by hundreds of meters many dozens to hundreds of times.  In only the last 12,000 years, less than a blink of an eye relative to a 4 billion year old planet, sea level has risen dozens of meters as the (most recent) continental ice sheets melted and retreated.  Some, including myself, see insufficient hard evidence that what warming we've seen in recent decades can't be attributed materially to the tail end of the post-Pleistocene warm-up.  Man's input has been only been present in the last 150 years of that 12,000 year trend.

 

I politely contend that the smart money is in dealing with climate change, not in attempting to stop it.  Large areas may become far less inhabitable, just as the great, vast Saharan savannah did just 5,000 years ago (again, with no input from mankind), and there very well may be nothing which can realistically be done about it.  I'm not in favor of abusing any resource, but I see little other than a vastly disrupted economy resulting from a rush to find solutions for problems which may be unsolvable.  

 

Foy


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#27 craig333

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Posted 19 July 2021 - 09:18 PM

I wish I could remember his name but back when I was working for CDF in the 80s they commissioned a weather study. He never mentioned climate change at all that I remember but he did say we leaving a period of unusually mild weather and entering a period where we'd see wild swings in weather. Pretty much exactly what has happened. I'd be curious to see what he thinks about climate change. 

 

Think it was Dodge something or something Dodge. Marvin Dodge. I knew it would come to me eventually.


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#28 Foy

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Posted 20 July 2021 - 01:01 PM

  I'd be curious to see what he thinks about climate change. 

 

Think it was Dodge something or something Dodge. Marvin Dodge. I knew it would come to me eventually.

 

The developing "greenhouse effect" was hitting the press from within academia circles by the late 1960s and was in full swing by the time my particular group of doe-eyed hippies sought to save the Earth with our geology degrees in the mid 1970s.  Problem was (and is?) that none of the dire predictions concerning climate and sea level changes came true. Almost to a man (and woman), we all got into oil and gas or mining since nothing of substance was going on in environmental. The ringing of the alarm bells has persisted since that time as has the absence of the predicted circumstances.  So when "environmental scientists" speak of "10 to 12 years before it's too late", my memory cells remind me I've seen this movie on a continuous loop for the last 50 years. I don't claim to know what's going to happen, but I've got a strong intuitive feel for what won't happen.

 

For the college science folks out there: Ever take a close look at the curriculum for an "environmental science" degree?  Just in the last couple of years, some of my old classmates and I have had occasion to do so due to our beloved Geology Department having morphed into the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences.  To cut to the chase, there are many, many curricula which require only 12-14 credit hours of applied science (chemistry, physics, biology, geology) and 12-14 credit hours of social science (political science, sociology, psychology, "environmental law", etc.).  Whether these folks should be regarded as scientists or not depends on one's own perspective, but in the eyes of certain fossils who earned BS and MS degrees from classical geology schools in the 1970s, lots of them are not scientists to any meaningful degree. And yes, we did walk to class through 3' of snow, uphill, both ways.

 

Foy


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#29 rando

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Posted 20 July 2021 - 03:13 PM

I feel like there is some pretty bad stereotyping and hand waving going on here.    Dismissing an entire field of science and a massive body of research based on some hand waving arguments does not seem particularly scientific.  For the old geologists in the group, I would suggest you consult your own professional societies (the GSA or more broadly the AGU) to learn what the current thinking in your field is.   Even the API and the Society of Exploration Geologists have position statements that align with the scientific consensus.

 

As to belittling environmental scientists, it helps to realize that environmental science is a broad field and is an applied science, not a basic science.   The fundamental research into climate is primarily carried out by PhD atmospheric scientists, hydrologists and geophysicists at government agencies (NOAA, NASA, USGS etc) and universities.    Environmental science builds on this basic research (as well as toxicology, hydrology etc) to come up with strategies, practices and policies for mitigation, adaptation and remediation for environmental impacts.   As such, environmental scientists have a larger breadth of knowledge and need to not only have a understanding of the science, but also the politics and policy, the societal impacts, the economic impacts etc.   At my institution, an undergraduate ES degree requires 60 credits in physical science, economics and social sciences in order to graduate.   

 

There is also a large overlap between ES and Environmental Engineering, with the Environmental Engineering folks having a focus on the more technical details of assessment and remediation, while the ES folks are looking at the broader picture. 

 

Full disclosure, this is coming from a practicing atmospheric scientist and recovering engineer. 


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#30 AWG_Pics

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Posted 20 July 2021 - 04:52 PM

I feel like there is some pretty bad stereotyping and hand waving going on here.    Dismissing an entire field of science and a massive body of research based on some hand waving arguments does not seem particularly scientific.  For the old geologists in the group, I would suggest you consult your own professional societies (the GSA or more broadly the AGU) to learn what the current thinking in your field is.   Even the API and the Society of Exploration Geologists have position statements that align with the scientific consensus.

 

As to belittling environmental scientists, it helps to realize that environmental science is a broad field and is an applied science, not a basic science.   The fundamental research into climate is primarily carried out by PhD atmospheric scientists, hydrologists and geophysicists at government agencies (NOAA, NASA, USGS etc) and universities.    Environmental science builds on this basic research (as well as toxicology, hydrology etc) to come up with strategies, practices and policies for mitigation, adaptation and remediation for environmental impacts.   As such, environmental scientists have a larger breadth of knowledge and need to not only have a understanding of the science, but also the politics and policy, the societal impacts, the economic impacts etc.   At my institution, an undergraduate ES degree requires 60 credits in physical science, economics and social sciences in order to graduate.   

 

There is also a large overlap between ES and Environmental Engineering, with the Environmental Engineering folks having a focus on the more technical details of assessment and remediation, while the ES folks are looking at the broader picture. 

 

Full disclosure, this is coming from a practicing atmospheric scientist and recovering engineer. 

 

Agreed!


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