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HomeNewsResearchers Discover $540 Billion of “White Gold” at Bottom of California Lake 

Researchers Discover $540 Billion of “White Gold” at Bottom of California Lake 

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Awed by technology and research, researchers have found a store of “white gold” from the bottom of a lake in California. The largest lake in the state, Salton Sea, served as the site of a study project funded by the Department of Energy.

A picture of white gold
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The discovery of the resource believed to be worth USD 540 Billion is creating ripples in the mining sector. Also, it has raised eyebrows as to the effects of mining this prized commodity. 

What is White Gold?

To the uninitiated, white gold is derived from barite- a soft, shiny white mineral composed of barium sulfate. It forms an essential part of drilling mud utilized in the oil and natural gas drilling process. 

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A picture of white gold
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It is also a valuable ingredient in paints, plastics, and other commercial applications.

Goal of the Project 

The project’s objective was to determine the amount of lithium submerged in the water. Lithium is a valuable chemical element that resembles white sand; for these reasons, it is sometimes called “white gold.” 

A picture of Gavin Newsom
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It was determined that the lake already had four million tonnes of lithium before the most recent drilling operation. The Salton Sea was originally referred to as the “Saudi Arabia of lithium mining” by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Discovery

The findings were made by a UCLA team in the course of their geological survey of Lake Isabella. One of the largest reservoirs located in Kern County of California. 

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The team was headed by Dr. Maria Rodriguez and used state-of-the-art sonar imaging to map the base of the lake and locate spots with unusual thermal signatures.

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Lithium Valley 

The lake was given the nickname “Lithium Valley” because of its location in Imperial County. In light of the most recent study project, the reason is now more clear than ever. 18 million tonnes of lithium were found at the bottom of the lake by geologists last year. 

A picture representation of lithium valley
Source: Pinterest

More cars that are currently on the road in the United States could be powered by this massive amount. This would be enough to power the batteries of over 382 million electric vehicles.

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Initial Findings

The preliminary studies pointed towards a massive barite formation in the lake extending over 10m in length and 1m in width. Nevertheless, further investigation confirmed that the size of the deposit was considerably greater than previously anticipated. As it has been estimated that the deposit was as large as twenty square miles.

A picture of lithium
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In addition, analysts in Barite anticipate that the deposit contains roughly 10 billion metric tonnes of Barite worth $540 billion. This staggering sum has sent ripples across the mining industry especially with many companies starting to rush to the uranium-rich areas.

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High Value 

According to the numbers from the previous year, the value of one metric tonne of lithium was roughly $29,000. 

A picture of lithium
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Based on this amount, the Salton Sea’s lithium reserves are projected to reach $540 billion. Currently, efforts are being conducted to remove as much lithium from the lakebed as feasible.

Environmental Concerns

Fortunately, such accomplishments have not met with approval from everyone. Due to this, environmentalists have raised several concerns with activities to extract this abundant resource from the lake. 

A picture of a lake
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This means constructing a huge industrial plant that will most likely unbalance the balance of the lake’s ecosystem, according to Sarah Johnson of the Sierra Club. “That is why we should examine the environmental hazards likely to occur as soon as the digging begins.”

Mineral Extraction Methods

Some methods can be used to extract the barite from the lake floor. However, one of them would be to employ suction dredges which are similar to vacuum cleaners to gather the sediment containing the minerals. 

A picture of lithium extraction
Source: Pinterest

Also, the other method that could be adopted would be to construct a floater that will process the barite from the water.

Challenges Ahead

The future is not without many hurdles, even though the finding has caused a stir. The lake lies in a fragile ecological environment. Therefore, any extraction technique will require appropriate strategies so as not to harm the environment. 

A picture of Salton Sea
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Furthermore, there may be competition between the mentioned countries and companies to get access to the deposit.

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International Interest

As soon as the word gets out, global firms are already eyeing control of the deposit. China’s state-owned oil company has already shown interest in investing in the American companies that will help extract the barite.

A picture representation of white gold in a lake
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However, should the discovery be made California and other areas would stand to benefit in terms of economics. Some calculations have indicated that it is possible to obtain more than $50 billion profit per year for a 10% share of a deposit.

Job Creation

Regarding the employment impact of the mining industry, thousands of employment opportunities for individuals in California and other regions are anticipated. Additionally, as the interest in the deposit intensifies, the regulating authorities need to set out several important measures to facilitate responsible extraction from the deposit. 

A picture representation of white gold in a lake
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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has sounded more plans to undertake more studies on the environmental impacts before it issues permits for extraction.

Significance of the Discovery 

The extraction of $540 billion worth of white gold from Lake Isabella in California will completely transform the region and the global mining industries. 

A picture representation of white gold in a lake
Source: Pinterest

Thus, while specialists try to understand how this invaluable material can be produced in a way that does not harm the environment. It is evident that this discovery will be equally significant for both economic and ecological aspects.

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