A drilling rig takes core samples at Western Lithium USA Corp.'s proposed mine site in northwest Nevada. Expectations that automobiles will soon run on lithium-ion batteries has fueled a flurry of industry activity in the West for new deposits of the mineral. Photo courtesy of Western Lithium.
WINNEMUCCA, Nev. -- Buried just below the arid sagebrush steppe of this high desert region lies a mineral resource that could one day power millions of American cars and trucks.
It's not oil, or natural gas, or even hydrogen.
Locked inside the teal-gray clay less than 300 feet below the surface are millions of tons of lithium, a lightweight element major automotive companies have branded as the low-carbon fuel of tomorrow.
The Kings Valley deposit -- created by massive volcanic eruptions more than 15 million years ago -- will soon be unearthed, processed, refined and shipped off to be manufactured into batteries that will power a new generation of hybrid-electric and plug-in vehicles.
With more than 11 million tons of lithium carbonate potential, the site is believed to be the fifth-largest lithium deposit in the world and promises to brighten America's prospects for energy independence, according to developer Western Lithium USA Corp.
"What we're doing is matching our development time frame with the growth of the electric car market," said Jay Chmelauskas, president of the Reno-based company, which hopes to open a major mine at the site by 2014.