Environment Lithium discovery in US volcano could be biggest deposit ever found

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A world-beating deposit of lithium along the Nevada–Oregon border could meet surging demand for this metal, according to a new analysis.

An estimated 20 to 40 million tonnes of lithium metal lie within a volcanic crater formed around 16 million years ago. This is notably larger than the lithium deposits found beneath a Bolivian salt flat, previously considered the largest deposit in the world.

‘If you believe their back-of-the-envelope estimation, this is a very, very significant deposit of lithium,’ says Anouk Borst, a geologist at KU Leuven University and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. ‘It could change the dynamics of lithium globally, in terms of price, security of supply and geopolitics.’

New in situ analysis reveals that an unusual claystone, composed of the mineral illite, contains 1.3% to 2.4% of lithium in the volcanic crater. This is almost double the lithium present in the main lithium-bearing clay mineral, magnesium smectite, which is more common than illite.

 
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