SJSU Techniques Frequently Used to Retrieve Lithium from The Reserves Analysis


Topic: Lithium, cobalt, and rare earths

We continue our discussion of energy resources with a couple of minerals that will soon play an increasing role. We may soon begin exchanging lithium batteries as routinely as pumping gasoline. Lithium, cobalt, and the so-called rare earths are critical ingredients for batteries in cars, homes, and electronic devices, and they may soon begin to provide large capacity storage for utility companies that are increasingly depending on intermittent solar and wind energy sources. The demand for these resources is therefore anticipated to outgrow the demand for pretty much any other resources, over the short to near term future. And much of this is being mined from some of the poorest, most insecure places on Earth. Most of the demand for lithium and cobalt comes from manufacturers of batteries like those that power electronic devices and (increasingly) automobiles.

Watch: Companies race to mine lithium, a battery essential [PBS NewsHour]

Watch: Here’s Where the Juice That Powers Batteries Comes From [Bloomberg Quicktakes]

Watch: Lithium Recycling FINALLY goes global! [Just Have a Think]

Cobalt seems to be the more problematic substance, in human and environmental terms.

Watch: Whose Wealth? Cobalt from Congo [SOMO Researcher]

Watch: How do we solve the Cobalt problem? [Just Have a Think]

Rare earths have unique electromagnetic properties. There are several of them, but they are usually found in the same deposits, which are found at various locations, including the sea floor, which we’ll be looking at in a couple of weeks.

Watch: How These Rare-Earth Elements Could Change Our Future [Spark]

Recommended: How the US plans on rivaling China in the production of critical earths [CNBC]

Recommended: Impact of Materials on Society- Rare Earth Elements [Materials Research Society]

Homework 14:

  1. Describe the mining and processing of lithium, its uses, and opportunities for recycling.
  2. What are some of the current social and environmental issues associated with the mining of cobalt? According to the narrator of the ‘Just Have a Think’ video, is the cobalt problem bring solved?
  3. What are rare earth elements used for? Where are they found? Are there likely to be undiscovered deposits? Which nations are most involved in increasing the production of rare earth minerals?