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Scientists discover $540 billion worth of 'white gold' sitting beneath giant lake

Niamh Shackleton

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Scientists discover $540 billion worth of 'white gold' sitting beneath giant lake

Featured Image Credit: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty Images / Brent Stirton/Getty Images

Scientists believe they have discovered the world's largest 'white gold' mine sitting underneath a lake.

A new study funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) researched the Salton Sea to try analyze just how much lithium is underneath the huge body of water.

Located in southern California, the body of water is the state's largest lake.

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It was already known that lake was was sitting on a lithium reservoir, but now the vast amount of chemical element has been revealed.

Millions of tons of lithium has been found beneath Salton Sea. Credits: simonkr/Getty
Millions of tons of lithium has been found beneath Salton Sea. Credits: simonkr/Getty

Four million tons has already confirmed to be present through drilling, and now scientists have estimated that there could be a staggering 18 million tons.

This would be enough to power more than 382 million batteries for electric vehicles.

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California Governor Gavin Newsom has previously described the Salton Sea as the Saudi Arabia of lithium mining - and it's now understandable why.

In light of the new discovery, it makes the California-based reservoir the largest in the world.

As of this year, one metric ton of lithium was worth around $29,000.

With that figure in mind, Salton Sea could be sat atop of $540 billion worth of goods.

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The vast amount of lithium could power over 300 million electric cars. Credits: 	Prapass Pulsub/Getty
The vast amount of lithium could power over 300 million electric cars. Credits: Prapass Pulsub/Getty

One of the report's 22 authors, Michael McKibben, a geochemistry professor at the University of California, Riverside, said of their findings: "This is one of the largest lithium brine deposits in the world.

"This could make the United States completely self-sufficient in lithium and stop importing it through China."

Others have hailed the finding as 'huge'.

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Sammy Roth, climate columnist for the Los Angeles Times, said on KJZZ radio's The Show: "It's been known for a long time that there's a whole bunch of lithium in this super heated underground pool, sort of deep beneath the the southern end of the Salton Sea."

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Lithium gets the name 'white gold' from its white, sand-like appearance. Credits:  Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg
Lithium gets the name 'white gold' from its white, sand-like appearance. Credits: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

Roth went on: "There have been companies for decades, actually that have been trying to get lithium out of there, and especially in the last decade as electric vehicles and energy storage on the the power grid become such a big need.

"But this this new report out of the federal government it's really a sort of eye popping number. They found that there's potentially enough lithium down there to supply batteries for 382 million electric vehicles, which is more, more vehicles than there are on the road in the United States today. So, if we could get all that lithium, that'd be huge."

And with President Joe Biden's plans to make 50 percent of the vehicles of US roads electric by 2030, these findings could definitely help make this possible.

Topics: News, US News, Science, Electric Cars

Niamh Shackleton
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