Skip to main content



Don’t get too excited about the new lithium deposit found in the US

Oct 2


The United States has recently identified what could be the world’s largest lithium deposit. Lithium — a crucial component in batteries powering a wide range of devices, from smartphones to electric vehicles — holds significant economic potential. China dominates the lithium market today, but if the estimated deposit size holds true, the U.S. could potentially take the lead, sparking an economic boom for the nation.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan advises against premature enthusiasm, highlighting the extensive U.S. regulatory and approval processes required to initiate lithium mining and processing. As a result, substantial progress may not materialize for at least a decade.

An excerpt from Peter Zeihan’s Oct. 2 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Well, it sounds like the U.S. finally decided to join in on the fun and make a lithium discovery of their own. This deposit is – supposedly – the largest ever, and it is located in the McDermitt Caldera near the Oregon-Nevada border.

I want to make clear that these are only estimates, so don’t pop the bubbly quite yet. On top of that, permitting and infrastructure buildout will take years to complete. Even when all that is done, lithium’s battery chemistry remains sub-optimal and has several limitations.

Despite these challenges, the McDermitt Caldera lithium deposit has the potential to shake up the industry. The U.S. needs to balance this discovery with investments in researching better battery chemistry alternatives.

Everybody, Peter Zion here coming to you from Colorado, a lot of you have written in asking what I think about this new suppose it lithium deposit that has been found near the Oregon Nevada border.


That’s in place called the McDermott Caldera, which if you’re familiar with plate tectonics is where the Yellowstone supervolcano used to be, basically, the Yellowstone supervolcano was a hotspot. And this is where it was ages ago. Anyway, volcanoes bring stuff up from the mantle, and even the core. And they tend to be a little interesting from human point of view. And so the minerals in the caldera are undoubtedly interesting. And supposedly, they found a whole lot of lithium, that if the estimates proved true, it will be the world’s single largest deposit bigger than what is in Chile, or Bolivia, or Argentina, or Australia, for that matter. So you know, potentially groundbreaking, and I think this is great, obviously, but four things to keep in mind. 


Number one, prospective, estimated potential, real exploration has not yet been done. And until it does, you know, don’t count those chickens. Number two, let’s assume that it’s as good as we think it is, well, you still have to build the mine. And from the day that all the permits are approved to the day that you get first large scale production is still going to be in excess of four years. Out in the permitting process, you’re going to add another two to three. And a lot of this is on Native American lands. So there’s a whole nother level of level of politics, and negotiation that goes into it. So I would be surprised, even in the best case scenario, if we saw meaningful output out of this thing in less than eight years, 10s, probably more likely. So the chicken counting is going to have to wait.


Third, let’s say we managed to get all this order to the ground, and it looks really promising. Well, then you have lithium, or it still needs to be processed into some sort of intermediate form like concentrate. And only then can it be refined into metal. And only then can it be turned into things like batteries. So there’s an entire manufacturing supply chain that has to be built up. Now, the United States is starting on this. 


We’re working with the Australians on some of this. But this is again, something that takes a minimum of two to four years to get going at scale. I would argue that we should work on the processing. Regardless, that way, even if this new source of order doesn’t work out, we can still tap water from places like Chile or Argentina, and have more and more of a supply chain within the Western Hemisphere. 


Okay, what else? Oh, yeah, one more thing. Lithium sucks. I mean, we use it as our dominant battery chemistry because we don’t have anything better. But it’s not particularly energy dense. It can only work for so many recharge cycles, and it tends to swell and heat up when you use it. So it can start fires, which is one of the many many many, many reasons why on flights, they tell you that if you have a lithium battery, don’t put it in your checked bag, because no one’s down there to check on it to carry it with you.


Hopefully, over the next decade, we will figure out a an easier battery chemistry, maybe even one that’s a little bit more I don’t know environmentally friendly because the mining and refining that’s necessary to do lithium at scale is pretty messy. We need several 100 billion dollars into new materials science research for green tech. And in none of the subfields isn’t more important than figuring out something that works for batteries better than lithium. 


But until that happens lithium is the best that we have. So this McDermott called Dara the factor pass mine area looks promising.

Video Library

Latest Commentary

We know it is important to hear from a diverse range of observers on the complex topics we face and believe our commentary partners will help you reach your own conclusions.

The commentaries published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Latest Opinions

In addition to the facts, we believe it’s vital to hear perspectives from all sides of the political spectrum. We hope these different voices will help you reach your own conclusions.

The opinions published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Weekly Voices

Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion

By entering your email, you agree to the Terms & Conditions and acknowledge the Privacy Policy.