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Lithium Deposits in the United States

June 1, 2020

This data release provides the descriptions of approximately 20 U.S. sites that include mineral regions, mines, and mineral occurrences (deposits and prospects) that contain enrichments of lithium (Li). This release includes sites that have a contained resource and (or) past production of lithium metal greater than 15,000 metric tons. Sites in this database occur in Arkansas, California, Nevada, North Carolina, and Utah. There are several deposits that were not included in the database because they did not meet the cutoff requirement, and those occur in Arizona, Colorado, the New England area, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

In the United States, lithium was first mined from pegmatite orebodies in South Dakota in the late 1800s. The Kings Mountain pegmatite belt of North Carolina also had significant production from pegmatites, and the area may still contain as much as 750 million metric tons (Mt) of ore containing 5 Mt lithium metal (Kesler and others, 2012). In 2018, U.S. production of lithium was restricted to a single lithium-brine mining operation in Nevada. In 2018, the U.S. had a net import reliance as a percentage of apparent consumption of more than 50 percent for lithium (U.S. Geological Survey, 2019). The U.S. is not a significant producer of lithium, so the commodity is mainly imported from Chile and Argentina to meet consumer demand.

Lithium is necessary for strategic, consumer, and commercial applications. The primary uses for lithium are in batteries, ceramics, glass, metallurgy, pharmaceuticals, and polymers (U.S. Geological Survey, 2019). Lithium has excellent electrical conductivity and low density (lithium metal will float on water), making it an ideal component for battery manufacturing. Lithium is traded in three primary forms: mineral concentrates, mineral compounds (from brines), and refined metal (electrolysis from lithium chloride). Lithium mineralogy is diverse; it occurs in a variety of pegmatite minerals such as spodumene, lepidolite, amblygonite, and in the clay mineral hectorite. Current global production of lithium is dominated by pegmatite and closed-basin brine deposits, but there are significant resources in lithium-bearing clay minerals, oilfield brines, and geothermal brines (Bradley and others, 2017).

The entries and descriptions in the database were derived from published papers, reports, data, and internet documents representing a variety of sources, including geologic and exploration studies described in State, Federal, and industry reports. Resources extracted from older sources might not be compliant with current rules and guidelines in minerals industry standards such as National Instrument 43-101 (NI 43-101) or the Joint Ore Reserves Committee Code (JORC Code). The inclusion of a particular lithium mineral deposit in this database is not meant to imply that the deposit is currently economic. Rather, these deposits were included to capture the characteristics of the larger lithium deposits in the United States, which are diverse in their geology and resource potential. Inclusion of material in the database is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The authors welcome additional published information in order to continually update and refine this dataset.

Publication Year 2020
Title Lithium Deposits in the United States
DOI 10.5066/P9ZKRWQF
Authors Nick A Karl, Jeffrey L Mauk, Tyler A Reyes, Patrick C Scott
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center