As electric cars begin to grow in popularity, the United States is in the process of reviving its own lithium mining facilities to cater to domestic demand for the mineral, a key component in electric rechargeable technologies. China is the current global leader in lithium processing, and it is the largest buyer of the majority of lithium produced by Australia, the current global leader in mining of the mineral. The US did lead the world in lithium mining in the mid-1990s until Chile priced them out of the market by being able to produce lithium far more cheaply from brine pools, as opposed to the more cost- and resource-intensive rock extraction methodologies required in the US.
The US has an estimated thirteen percent of the world’s lithium reserves, and while it only catered to a paltry two percent of global production last year, the potential to once again be the leading producer of lithium is not too far out of its reach. While most of this reserve is available in hard rock deposits, clay, and geothermal and oilfield brines that are more expensive to extract the lithium from, rising prices due to growing demand are sure to encourage producers and miners alike to once again begin extraction activities and cater to a growing domestic and global demand.
In states like North Carolina, Utah, Arkansas and California, several small producers have already been approached by automobile manufacturers who are on the lookout for lithium supplies that are not from China, seeing the current dependency as a definite weakness, and one that puts them in direct competition with Chinese automobile manufacturers who are themselves attempting to capitalize on the growing global demand for electric vehicles.