If Simbol Mining's plans work out, within a decade it will deliver one-fourth of the world's increasing demand for lithium, used in batteries of hybrid and electric cars without creating waste or pollution.
The start-up eventually aims to mine more than 100,000 tons of lithium carbonate each year from geothermal sources. That's more than the current annual market for the compound; the company expects demands for it to quintuple by 2013.
Current mining methods won't provide enough for the future need for lithium-ion batteries, according to Meridian International Research.
Geothermal power plants bring silica, lithium, zinc, manganese, and other valuable materials in a hot stew of brine from 10,000 feet underground to the earth's surface, then inject them back down.
"It's equivalent to a glass of lemonade," explained Simbol Mining's president and co-founder, Luka Erceg. He likened the valuable ingredients to lemonade powder mix that dissolves in water but can be recovered when dried out.
Simbol Mining would use off-the-shelf nanofilters, like those in water-treatment systems, to extract minerals and metals from the salty water....MORE