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  • Context (LM): Scientists have discovered a massive lithium deposit beneath California’s Salton Sea, holding an estimated 18 million tons of lithium.

Salton Sea

  • The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline lake located in the California desert.
  • The Sea was created in 1905 when water from the Colorado River spilled out of a poorly constructed California Development Company irrigation system and into a basin in the desert.
  • The lake then expanded in size for several years until workers were able to put a stop to the flow.
  • The lake lies on the San Andreas Fault within the Salton Trough, which stretches to the Gulf of California in Mexico.
  • The lake is bordered on the south by the rich agricultural areas of the Imperial Valley, on the west, by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and on the north by the Coachella Valley.
  • It is an endorheic lake, meaning that its waters have no outlet to the ocean.
  • It has been maintained by irrigation runoff coming from the Imperial and Coachella valleys and nearby rivers ever since its formation.
  • It is currently 228 feet below sea level.
  • Its salinity (some 45 parts per thousand) far exceeds that of seawater.
  • The Sea is an important stopping point for migratory waterfowl and serves as a critical habitat for birds moving south to Mexico and Central America.

Salton Sea

Lithium

  • Lithium is a non-ferrous, soft, silvery-white alkali metal. It is also called ‘white gold’ due to its high demand for rechargeable batteries.
  • Under standard conditions, it is the least dense metal and the least dense solid element.
  • Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable, so it must be stored in a vacuum, inert atmosphere, or inert liquid (such as purified kerosene or mineral oil).
  • It exhibits a metallic lustre. But it corrodes quickly in the air to a dull silvery grey, then black tarnish.
  • It never occurs freely in nature but occurs mainly as pegmatitic minerals.
  • Due to its solubility as an ion, it is present in ocean water and commonly obtained from brines (high-concentration salt solution in water).
  • Lithium metal is isolated electrolytically from a mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride.
  • Pegmatite is a coarse-textured igneous rock that forms during the final stage of magma’s crystallisation. It contains large crystals and minerals rarely found in other types of rocks.
  • Top producers of lithium: 1st Australia > 2nd Chile > 3rd China > 4th Argentina > 5th Zimbabwe
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