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Just as lead acid batteries gave way to lithium-ion batteries and pex tubing (partially) replaced copper piping, new technology will provide alternative resources to meet our needs. In 1920 the U.S. Geological Survey predicted that at the then current rate of discoveries and consumption the United States would run out of oil by 1938. But soon the Congress reacted, and by percentage depletion a favorable climate was created for more risks, more discoveries, more production to meet the urgent needs of the people and of industry. I suspect the same will be true for the production and powering of electric vehicles.
 

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Well sure. I don't think that's news to people here. I've heard (rumor) that child labor is being used for some of these mining efforts too. So we'll just look at our feet and shuffle a bit when challenged.

But it's all a start towards not burning fossil fuels. We know we're in transition. Until networks of hydrogen are supplied everywhere electricity is, it's the next best thing. I haven't looked at how much energy and natural resources it takes to go hydrogen though either.


I REALLY hate paying for gas.
 

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I don't expect that we'll be using Co or Li, etc by 2050. The battery manufacturers will have developed a new and more efficient material set by then. Or maybe Elon will start mining on mars....:)
 

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Finding and producing raw materials is not a problem. Despite the name "rare earth" they are not actually as rare as the title implies, consumption has historically just been too low to require even middle priced mining of them. Just as redpoint5 says, its supply and demand pricing. With enough financial incentive the materials will be found and processed. I spent 11 years as a copper geologist, now I'm a lithium geologist working on bringing a mine online that on its own would be a 1/4 or todays production, but likely will be around an 1/8th of the worlds production of lithium when it gets going full tilt (up and running in 2-3 years, another year or 3 to hit full tilt). Any comodity just needs enough demand pricing.

Also, there are alternative to rare earth magnets for electric motors, just a little less efficient.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Finding and producing raw materials is not a problem. Despite the name "rare earth" they are not actually as rare as the title implies, consumption has historically just been too low to require even middle priced mining of them. Just as redpoint5 says, its supply and demand pricing. With enough financial incentive the materials will be found and processed. I spent 11 years as a copper geologist, now I'm a lithium geologist working on bringing a mine online that on its own would be a 1/4 or todays production, but likely will be around an 1/8th of the worlds production of lithium when it gets going full tilt (up and running in 2-3 years, another year or 3 to hit full tilt). Any comodity just needs enough demand pricing.

Also, there are alternative to rare earth magnets for electric motors, just a little less efficient.
Sounds like a problem:

Saving the Planet With Electric Cars Means Strangling This Desert https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-06-11/saving-the-planet-with-electric-cars-means-strangling-this-desert
 

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That is one location of many many many possible places. Personally, I think brine resources are a waste of water, particularly in the desert. The last company I worked for(KGHM) has a copper operation in Chile that constructed a pipeline to the ocean and ran a de-salination plant to use sea water for copper production rather than pump the desert.
 

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That is one location of many many many possible places. Personally, I think brine resources are a waste of water, particularly in the desert. The last company I worked for(KGHM) has a copper operation in Chile that constructed a pipeline to the ocean and ran a de-salination plant to use sea water for copper production rather than pump the desert.
There are always trade-offs. How much electricity is required to desalinate and pump that sea water up to the high desert?
 

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A lot less than the trade off cost of purchasing additional water rights and drilling very deep wells in an already over allocated water basin. Or financially worse, stopping production from lack of water.
 

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I was going to mention that these places are likely much better off having the jobs the mining operation creates and the money that is spent in the local regions. That doesn't justify people not having access to the water they need, if indeed that is a problem, but it seems money can solve that problem too.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
That is one location of many many many possible places. Personally, I think brine resources are a waste of water, particularly in the desert. The last company I worked for(KGHM) has a copper operation in Chile that constructed a pipeline to the ocean and ran a de-salination plant to use sea water for copper production rather than pump the desert.
Right, and so I would hope that mining operations would put the cost of environmental degradation at least slightly ahead of profit. But, this seems to be an (I would guess not isolated) example of the opposite.

Nonetheless, raising these concerns is part of the larger narrative to remind ourselves to not sacrifice our local environments in the immediate even if it is in service of solving a more global environmental issue we hope to address in the long term.
 

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Well, all market investments are 'for profit' operations, cannot get away from that. Environmentally its better to extract resources in juristictions that at least have a sense of environmental regulation (ie USA, Chile, Canada, Australia, etc) than places that pretty much don't give a d*** (ie Congo, China, etc). But many people have a real problem of "not in my backyard" syndrome and assume raw materials just appear as new products if we ban all mining. Nope, mining simply goes somewhere with less oversight. There is always an impact, the question is simply a matter of what is acceptable and try to keep it to a responsible minimum amount.

Mining in jurisdictions with legitimate environmental oversite, it is far far more cost effective to do the engineering and spend the money upfront on environmental impacts than create a long term legacy issue. Many many companies still deal with very expensive legacy issues from lax environmental rules of decades past. It has come a loooong way!
 

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Apparently not at 6500' in the Atacama desert, or they would have gone the desalinated sea water route.
The copper mines are going the desailation route.....

The potassium/lithium resource is IN the Atacama water, so importing water would not make sense.

**And for reference, SQM makes waaay more money on the potassium they are pulling from the water than the lithium. The lithium is just co-product of their potassium business that makes them a bit more money. They are pumping the water for the potassium, not the lithium.
 

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How is potassium mined with water if it burns when it comes in contact with water? For that matter, how are there deposits considering water is everywhere. Shouldn't it have all burned up?
It's probably in salts or other complexes that are then processed to get the potassium product.
 

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The potassium/lithium resource is IN the Atacama water, so importing water would not make sense.
Interesting, I missed that detail. So what are they doing with the water? Just boiling it off? I bet there is a way to recapture it and replace it into the ecosystem.
 

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Interesting, I missed that detail. So what are they doing with the water? Just boiling it off? I bet there is a way to recapture it and replace it into the ecosystem.
Probably why the company believes they can ultimately be a zero water user... if it's a desalination process, you can just return the clean water back for consumption after harvesting the resources from it. Heck, if they bottle it and market it with a fancy name like Naive, er Evian, they could probably make a fortune.
 

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Interesting, I missed that detail. So what are they doing with the water? Just boiling it off? I bet there is a way to recapture it and replace it into the ecosystem.
Brine operations simply put the salty water in open ponds and let the dry desert air and sun evaporate it off to the sky, gradually concentrating the potassium and lithium in the remaining water at which point the remaining brine water is processed to extract the potassium and lithium. Like I previously said, I consider it fairly wasteful. At least with conventional mining and rock processing, much of the water is reclaimed and re-used.
 
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