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Big Lithium Find out West May Ease Demand for Black Hills Lithium Exploration

South Dakota may miss out on the lithium boom. The folks drilling for that vital battery metal in the Black Hills may all want to pull up stakes and head to the Thacker Pass on the Nevada-Oregon border, where miners think they’ve found a huge lithium deposit in a volcanic crater:

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 [Anthony King, “Lithium Discovery in US Volcano Could Be Biggest Deposit Ever Found,” Chemistry World, 2023.09.06].

Currently the largest known lithium deposit is in Bolivia’s salt flats, which are estimated to hold around 23 million metric tons of lithium. Study author and mining company Lithium Americas VP Tom Benson tells that the Thacker Pass deposits are “right at the surface of the Earth, which makes it “one of the least impactful mines ever to be built.’” Benson’s company website says the Thacker Pass mine would go down a maximum of 122 meters; Midwest Lithium is drilling down into the rock near Mount Rushmore about 260 meters.

Of course, if the lithium skips South Dakota, we won’t miss out on much tax revenue, since the Legislature couldn’t figure out how to tax lithium mining last Session.


  1. P. Aitch 2023-09-13 13:35

    Really? So far this year, there have been 108 lithium-ion battery fires in New York City, which have injured 66 people and killed 13, up from 98 fires that had injured 40 and killed two at this time last year.
    Let’s fund innovation in a different power source. One that doesn’t freak out baggage attendants on airlines.

  2. Arlo Blundt 2023-09-13 19:02

    Back in the 70’s I remember small groups of miners (actually, out of work construction guys) filing on a mining claim and digging for minerals for which a market existed. Spudomene was one they were looking for….it contains usable amounts of Lithium. Recall that they also looked for Molybdenum which is used in steel making. The “mine” I saw was a literal hole in the ground with one guy going down with a rope around him and the other running a windlass at the surface connected to a small gas engine to bring up the ore. I have no idea if they ever brought up enough of the stuff to sell, or where they sold it. The whole operation was one of the scarier things I’ve ever seen.

  3. grudznick 2023-09-13 20:24

    Drilling deep is good. Deeper and deeper, so the Mt. Rushmore drilling is almost twice as good as the Thacker drilling. #4Science.

    The best part of this lithium need in South Dakota is in the use of psychiatric brain treatment disorder. They put insaner people on lithium. My old friend Mr. Howie is lithiumed far more than you might think.

  4. John 2023-09-13 20:28

    Folks are working overtime to rid EVs of lithium. The first gen sodium solid state batteries should be available this year. in 2024 at the latest.
    Let Sam explain: 6m,

    Let Dr. Ben thrill you with a bit of battery history up to the solid state battery, 14m,

    EV fires are far fewer than are internal combustion engine vehicle fires – even using lithium batteries.

  5. grudznick 2023-09-13 20:48

    The reality is, gasoline powered trucks are the best, and people like them.
    Big, honking, gasoline powered trucks.

  6. P. Aitch 2023-09-14 14:39

    The EV fires in NYCity are happening inside tall apartment buildings. Once started it’s nearly impossible to extinguish a lithium fire. People bring their electric bicycles into their homes and charge the battery overnight. Fully normal behavior. The fires nearly always involve cheap Chinese generic lithium batteries. Another incident happened overnight in an electric bike shop on the ground floor of a multi-story apartment building.

  7. grudznick 2023-09-14 17:45

    That is why electric bicycles are bad, Mr. Lansing. They are bad. They are very bad.

    Ride a bike you have to work a little at, or just get a nice comfy gasoline powered truck, like my neighbors all have.

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