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Environment, Energy and Transportation

Australian company begins drilling for lithium in Oregon

A dropped pin on Google Maps shows the approximate location of a large lithium project in southeast Oregon.
Google Maps
A dropped pin on Google Maps shows the approximate location of a large lithium project in southeast Oregon.

The project in southern Malheur County could eventually help supply a growing U.S. appetite for domestic lithium used to make batteries.

An Australian company has started drilling at a site in southeast Oregon that could eventually host a large lithium mine.

Jindalee Resources Ltd., a mineral exploration company based in Perth, announced earlier this week that it’s working to determine the extent of a lithium deposit in southern Malheur County.

The company said in a release that the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) has approved drilling of 39 holes to shore up Jindalee’s estimate of how much lithium exists at the site. Jindalee has said the deposit west of the Oregon-Nevada border town of McDermitt is among the largest lithium deposits in the country.

Multiple requests for comment from Jindalee and DOGAMI have not been returned.

In an interview with the financial media outlet Proactive this spring, Jindalee executive director Lindsay Dudfield called the McDermitt Lithium Project “an absolute monster.”

Lithium is an extremely lightweight metal seen as critical to a global transition off fossil fuels to renewable energy. The element is foundational to lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles and store power generated by things like wind and solar, among other uses.

The Biden administration has made clear that it wants to significantly increase the amount of lithium sourced and processed in the United States. Jindalee says the McDermitt Lithium Project has potential to do both.

“The key outcomes of the [scoping] Study highlighted the potential of the Project to support a viable standalone lithium mining and processing operation and reinforced the significance of McDermitt as a potential long-life source of future supply to the rapidly growing US battery manufacturing industry,” the company release states.

The project is located on the northern edge of the McDermitt Caldera, which formed following a massive eruption more than 16 million years ago. Lithium-rich sediments have been found near the caldera’s perimeter.

A proposed lithium mine on the Nevada side of the caldera has attracted controversy for its potential ecological harm, desecration of a historic massacre site, disruptions to ranching and more.

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