About Lithium Valley

“Lithium Valley” refers to an area near the Southern end of the Salton Sea in Imperial, California. Here, a vast lithium resource is contained in a hot reservoir of mineral-rich liquid (“brine”) thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface. This brine is already brought to the surface for geothermal energy production, but the lithium currently is reinjected along with other minerals in the spent brine. Supported by state and local government, several companies are developing “direct lithium extraction” technology to recover lithium, while nonprofit organizations and labor unions work to make it an equitable development that will benefit local communities. 

Direct lithium extraction from geothermal brines is expected to be more sustainable than conventional lithium extraction methods, and lithium is essential to build electric vehicles and store renewable energy. However, direct lithium extraction is still a new technology. To gather more information about the resource and its potential impact, the Department of Energy commissioned a pilot study conducted by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the University of California Riverside, the University of California Davis, Geologica, MIT, and the University of Auckland. The full report is available online, but we developed this list of FAQs to make the information more accessible. When we aren’t able to provide answers, we explain why and point to other sources of information.