SPECIAL FEATURE: Lithium Valley – Salton Sea Metal Recovery
Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) shares plans to extract lithium from the great body of water – 13 On Your Side’s Anchor Vince Ybarra reports
SALTON CITY, Calif. (KECY, KYMA) – The Salton Sea, a body of water created from a 1905 spill from the Colorado River.
The Imperial Irrigation District says that in recent years, things like sewage and pesticides as well as exposure to arsenic have made it a toxic hazard to nearby residents.
The body of water is about 34 miles long and now a new company Controlled Thermal Resources also knows that CTR has spent around $50 million using the Salton Sea to mine the lithium.
Lithium is a natural chemical element used to power electric vehicle batteries, and more.
Rod Colwell, CEO of CTR, says it’s a treasure trove of geothermal opportunities.
“We are eight thousand to 15 thousand feet below where we stand here is one of the largest lithium brine geothermal resources on the planet…if not the largest,” Colwell said.
Colwell says the Salton Sea is one of the most studied land areas in the world because of lithium. Put the body of water on the map to hold this special metal.
So how do they extract lithium from the Salton Sea?
“You’re bringing hot brine up from deep…hot water that has a lot of minerals in that water, but then we’re picking up the lithium,” Colwell said.
Colwell says that once the lithium is recovered, the water is pumped into the ground. Every gallon of water is recycled up to eight times. Water that goes back into the ground will collect lithium over the course of 64 years, and after that time that water can be pulled out of the ground and you can collect lithium again.
This process is vast… and not everyone agrees like Patricia Leal-Gutierrez, resident of the North Shore.
“When we think about lithium and extraction, even though the process will be different…we still don’t know the underlying consequences,” Leal-Gutierrez said.
I asked Colwell about community concerns like his. He says CTR’s lithium recovery process is very environmentally friendly.
“There’s no waste with that. There’s no landfill with that. In fact… the brine never hits the atmosphere once,” Colwell said.
Colwell says that countries like Chile also extract lithium but they do it by creating evaporation ponds… Bringing brine to the surface, potential damage to the environment.
He understands the concern but points out that there are no toxic gases and that everything is done underground, which makes this project safe not only for the employees who mine lithium, but also for the people living around. the Salton Sea.
Salton City resident Debra Schultz is excited about this new project, especially the economic opportunity.
“I think it’s going to create a lot more jobs for people,” Schultz said. “It will benefit everyone.”
Schultz says she trusts companies like CTR and understands how valuable lithium is.
“Lithium is like, it’s gold. We are… we are on it,” Schultz said.
Schultz hopes this will bring more housing to the area. And Colwell says…Lithium mining will do just that.
“We have purchased four lots now in Calipat, we have 42 apartments underway for affordable housing. All of that has to be factored in, you can’t just create all these jobs and people have nowhere to live, work and play,” Colwell said.
Colwell says this project is not limited to lithium mining. He says ct-r’s mission is to also take care of the people who do the work. Colwell says building communities with better schools is also underway.
“Where can you go anywhere in California where you have the mountains in one window and the sea in the other and the sun is non-stop,” Schultz said.