As the “White Gold Rush” continues to promise a great future for Imperial County, the Board of Supervisors approved a letter of support for a mineral company that is seeking funding from the recently approved Infrastructure Law in an attempt to support lithium development locally.
EnergySource Minerals (ESM) is applying to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-Battery Materials Processing and Battery Manufacturing Funding Opportunities to fund Project Atlis Battery-Spec Lithium Hydroxides from Salton Sea Geothermal Brine.
The proposed project is to construct and operate a commercial lithium hydroxide production plant, name Project ATLis, within the Salton Sea Geothermal field located in Imperial County, California. The project is anticipated to bring many benefits to Imperial County, such as new job and workforce training opportunities, contribute to county finances to improve roads and waterways, expand educational opportunities for students, provide adequate public safety, and support efforts to clean up and revitalize the Salton Sea.
This letter was sent to the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in support of EnergySource.
“As the County’s governing body, we are acutely aware of the tremendous economic and environmental opportunity this project would bring to our underserved communities, and respectfully request that the Department of Energy carefully consider the local benefits that this project could offer, in addition to the substantial advancement of our nation’s clean energy economy that would come from a thriving lithium processing industry in Imperial County.” County Board Chairman Jesus Eduardo Escobar stated in the letter.
Escobar added that Imperial County residents have been disparately impacted by the negative economic conditions, leading to high unemployment and poverty rates and low income compared to other counties in California and the United States as a whole.
Upon completion, Project ATLis will create over 220 good-paying jobs directly and indirectly in Imperial County. To meet the workforce need for this project, ESM is collaborating with the local community college, Imperial Valley College, to train students with the skills needed to build or operate advanced manufacturing technology. Furthermore, ESM is offering applied technology training for non-degree seeking workers and plans to make serious investments in the future education of Imperial County students through their “Lithium Camp” education programs geared at students of all ages to open their eyes to future STEM career opportunities in the field. Moreover, ESM will offer scholarship opportunities for individuals that are the first in their families to attend college.
Additionally, the project will provide substantial and reliable revenue that can be utilized to improve the county. It is estimated that the project can generate over $10 million in tax revenues and local fees, $18 million in local payroll services, and $2.5 million in local infrastructure investments on an annual basis for the 30-year life of the project.
The State of California has established a separate, dedicated tax revenue stream that will go directly towards clean-up efforts of the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake that has been severely impacted by the drought. Although there is much work and many stakeholders involved in resolving this challenge, ESM’s reliable contribution, through this project, would be a notable investment in the economic and environmental health of our county for generations to come.
Escobar said that they are impressed with the scope and depth of ESM’s commitment to engage the community regarding this project. They will also submit an annual Giving Community Report detailing ESM’s contributions to improving the community and efforts to outreach and engage with community stakeholders and organizations.
“With all that said, we are also encouraged that his facility will take up a mere fraction of the space a typical lithium processing plant would take up, and also take serious efforts to protect our air and water quality through their geothermal brine lithium processing technology. As we understand it, the proprietary process results in one of the world’s smallest environmental footprints for lithium extractions with a physical project footprint of 2-5% of comparable projects, just 10-33% of water use, and 20-40% of carbon emissions when compared to similar lithium projects,” Escobar wrote.