Ever since electric carmaker Tesla announced plans to build a battery plant outside Reno, Nevada, investors, fans of Elon Musk's company and others around the world have started paying attention to the silver state's large lithium deposits.
Lithium is a key component in the production of batteries used in cell phones and electric vehicles. As sales of electric vehicles, which topped 500,000 worldwide last year, increase, so is demand for lithium.
"Every new mine that we can find needs to be brought online and it needs to be done as fast as possible," said Patrick Highsmith, CEO of Pure Energy Minerals.
Highsmith's company is exploring how much lithium is in the water tables deep below the Nevada desert in Clayton Valley. This valley, halfway between Las Vegas and Reno, is ringed by mountains and home to one of the largest lithium deposits in North America. That's why companies such as Abermale have been here for years extracting lithium in a time consuming process of pumping water into huge extraction pools where the water evaporates and eventually leaves the salt, potash, and lithium.
Using evaporation to mine lithium is an old and time consuming process, taking well over a year to produce lithium.