The Lithium Paradox
March 22, 2023
March 22, 2023
As the world races toward electrification and decarbonization, lithium remains at the forefront of our collective attention. Challenges with climate change and the push for a rapid transition to renewable energy infrastructures have quadrupled the demand for lithium in only 12 years.
As an industrial-use element, lithium's demand is purely practical— it's the best source of material for rechargeable batteries. However, our hunger for lithium minerals comes at a cost. Despite lithium's many benefits, we cannot continue to ignore the negative environmental and human impact of lithium mining and production. Are there ways to mitigate the many hazards of mining lithium?
The evaporation of lithium-rich waters is one of the primary ways lithium is extracted and condensed. While estimates vary, it can take anywhere from 500,000 to 2.2 million liters of water to get 1 tonne of lithium. Such water usage is unsustainable and, in many places, can cause groundwater depletion, adversely affecting farmers, food security, and local villages.
Extracting lithium from ores (like in Australia and North America) and salt brines (like in Chile and other salt flats) leads to chemical leaks. Water is contaminated with sulfuric acid discharge, uranium by-products, and lime and magnesium wastes. The toxicity poisons wildlife and people alike.
Mining projects destroy the land's ecology, permanently destroying natural wildlife habitats and rendering fertile agricultural land unusable. Habitat loss of this scale negatively influences biodiversity, fragmenting wildlife and plant life ecosystems while diminishing indigenous cultures.
Lithium extraction from raw ore requires a set of mechanical and chemical processes to separate, consolidate, and make lithium accessible. This includes crushing the ore using sulfuric acid and other chemicals to leach out the lithium, followed by heating and separating it. Toxic chemicals can come into contact with workers, creating burns and the transfer of toxins through the skin and eyes. Vapors and dust create health hazards for workers.
The demand for lithium is increasing at a breakneck pace. With all the environmental damage done by mining lithium, is there a way to minimize the devastation while still providing incentives to mines and monetizing the assets in the ground? Element United believes they have the answer.
Lithium has inherent value and can be monetized using blockchain and crypto technologies. Blockchain and node technology allows Element United and the lithium mines to create new economies, with new products and services to reflect the value of the assets left in the ground. These products will include NFT collections and a browser game to earn Element rewards. They partner with mines to leave their assets in the ground and digitize them instead of bringing them to the surface.
This way, companies can reduce the amount of mining that needs to be done, only going after the easily accessible material. This reduces their environmental impact while still maximizing the potential of the mine's assets. Everybody wins.
The future needs clean and sustainable economies to drive growth. Element United is committed to that future, and you can be too. You can learn more about our mission by downloading the latest version of our Lite Paper, joining our Discord community, and following us on Twitter.
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