Startups Looking for Lithium in the Salton Sea

Gigaom

Just south of the Salton Sea — the salty, shrinking 350-square-mile lake that was formed as the result of an engineering accident in the early 1900s — a six-year-old tech startup has been extracting the “white gold” that lies thousands of feet below the surface. That valuable material, lithium, can be used in batteries for electric cars and cell phones, and the project has piqued enough interest that execs from a handful of battery makers, as well as electric car company Tesla, have visited the site.

On a typical baking-hot, dusty summer afternoon off an industrial road outside of Calipatria, California, Simbol Materials’ executives showed me the series of gray pipes and beige tanks that have so far extracted a few hundred tons of lithium product from the mixture of hot water and mineral deposits that’s pumped up to the surface by a neighboring geothermal power plant. Simbol’s plant…

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