How Lithium Makes Its Way From Salt Flats to Your Cell Phone

Kirstin Fawcett

Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth, but it's also home to buried treasure. The desert’s mineral-rich salt flats contain high concentrations of lithium—a key ingredient in the rechargeable batteries that power our smartphones, laptops, and electric cars. Mining companies “harvest” the lithium by pumping water through the salt beds and storing it in ponds. The sun evaporates the liquid, leaving minerals and salt behind, and this substance is refined into powder before being exported to countries around the globe, where it's used to juice up electronics.

In the video above, Bloomberg journalist Ashlee Vance visits a lithium mine field operated by Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM), where he watches the beginning stages of lithium’s long journey from Chile’s salt flats to your cell phone—and spends a little time pondering the future of this essential material.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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