Water Deception & Mining Consequences
By: Bernard Lopez
In my last article I wrote about lithium mining and the tremendous amount of water needed for that process. If you didn’t read my last article, I’ll recap quickly. Massive amounts of water are being used in the mining process. For example, in one article I found from 2016, Tom Tripp, U.S. Magnesium’s company technical services manager said this; “we have 65,000 acres of infill solar ponds. In the course of a year, we’re evaporating 40 billion gallons of water”. This article was referring to magnesium mining. Imagine the water usage when you couple that with lithium mining.
Today I am going to address the water issue and talk about the destructive effects to our environment. Lithium mining and water go hand in hand and that is NOT good for the Great Salt Lake. Pay attention everyone because not only does the governor want to control your water at the flip of a switch, but our government is willing to sell you out while they sell our water to the highest bidder. In doing so, it destroys our beautiful state.
Along the Wasatch front there are twenty-five data centers. Why does this matter? These data centers store and process huge amounts of information and these servers can heat up very quickly. They cool these servers down through the evaporative process and that takes water. Let’s look at just one of those data centers along the Wasatch Front. The National Security Administration data center, NSA, used 128 million gallons of water in a year. Our governor is threatening to shut our water off as well as encourage our neighbors to snitch on each other but says nothing about the NSA using 128,000,000 gallons of water in a year. One must ask why he is silent on that issue.
According to an article by Pamela McCall, Facebook used 13,460,590 gallons of water while the NSA used 128,275,000 gallons of water. Combined, that is 141,735,590 gallons of water used by two of the twenty-five data facilities in Utah. If we have been in a mega drought since 2000 why did our state government allow data centers like the NSA, (2014) and Facebook, (2018) to come into our state and why are they allowing for the expansion of the Eagle Mountain facility by 900,000 square feet? I would say that has a hefty environmental impact on our state, one which is devastating to our water resources. I do not think this would classify as being environmentally friendly or water conscious on the part of the governor or our legislature, especially since we have been told we are in a mega-drought.
Dan Swinhoe wrote an article about the expansion of the Eagle Mountain data center. In an effort to be good global citizens and go green by using solar panels Facebook has come out and said, “We have worked to bring more than 500MW of new solar energy to the Utah grid and we have invested in a project that will restore water to the Provo River,” said the Facebook post. “Once completed, the Eagle Mountain Data Center will be supported by 100 percent solar energy from projects here in Utah”. Despite the benefits of going solar, environmental concerns remain. The process used to build solar panels require the use of toxic chemicals that release pollutants into the air we breathe while consuming valuable resources. The “green movement” doesn’t sound so green or clean to me.
In addition to the toxic chemicals used in the process, water is also a necessary component. While the manufacturing process occurs mostly in China, Canada and the U.S. are in on the game. How does this tie into Utah’s water issue?
Let me explain, First Solar was founded in Ohio back in 1999. Ohio is quite a distance from Utah; however, Utah plays a role via tellurium processing. According to an article by First Tellurium Corp. “Rio Tinto Kennecott has begun processing tellurium at its Bingham Canyon Copper Mine near Salt Lake City, Utah. As a result, Kennecott is now one of only two U.S. producers of tellurium. The recently completed, $2.9 million recovery circuit will produce approximately 20 tons of tellurium annually, or about 4% of global annual production estimated at 580 tonnes.”
Tellurium does not require large amounts of water to process the metal, but it is an important component for semiconductors used in making solar panels and these semiconductors do use large quantities of water. According to an article by ILUM Energy Solutions, “Semiconductor manufacturing requires massive amounts of water. Just a two-foot wide wafer of semiconductors consumes 4,400 gallons of water. Solar power systems require hundreds of square feet of semiconductors. Just one semiconductor manufacturing facility can use 5 million gallons of water every day. That’s nearly 2 billion gallons of water every year. Obviously, the demand for solar and other electronic devices can’t be met with one semiconductor manufacturing facility. They exist all over the country, all using water at this staggering rate.” I pray our governor doesn’t get wind of this and try to bring a solar panel manufacturing plant to our state. It also makes one think about what is happening in other states in relation to their water issues.
Our leaders, such as Governor Cox, are telling us we are in a severe drought while at the same time diverting our precious drinking water to the GSL in an effort to save it. Are these his true intentions? As I stated before, it seems incredible that our state legislatures would allow for private companies to come in and make binding agreements to supply lithium when our precious lake is in danger of drying up. The amount of water needed is enormous and private companies are gaining access to our water by obtaining water rights. Ask yourself, do you believe the GSL is drying up due to drought or could there be other explanations?
When you have companies like Compass Minerals signing a binding “multiyear supply agreement to provide LG Energy Solution (LGES), a leading global manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage systems, with battery-grade lithium carbonate from its Ogden, Utah solar evaporation lithium brine development”, one must question the water narrative. They have agreed to deliver up to 40% of their phase one production to LGES. Proof that LGES is taking lithium from our Great Salt Lake (GSL). If water is a major concern, why are large corporations using so much of it and why is our leadership allowing companies in Utah to sign these types of agreements?
I mention LGES because it ties into a couple articles a friend of mine sent to me. We know that LGES is taking lithium from our GSL as I mentioned in my previous article and the articles sent to me show more proof of the raping of our precious lake. The articles verify the amounts to be taken from our GSL. Let’s look. LGES is a supplier to Tesla. The agreement signed between Compass Minerals and LGES, phase one, is set to begin in 2025. LGES will receive approximately 11,000 metric tons during this time. My last article mentioned that roughly 500,000 gallons of water are needed for every ton of lithium extracted. Simple math says that 5,500,000,000 gallons of water will be used during the phase one operation. That is a tremendous amount of water used, especially for a state that claims to be in a mega-drought. Somethings stinks and it isn’t my socks.
For more in depth information on the water issue, I encourage you to watch this segment of the Kate Dalley show. The guest, Chelcie Hope, talks about the water issue and what is going on there. She also touches on mining of the Great Salt Lake. See link below.
Turning to the process now, let’s look at the destructive nature of lithium mining. There are several issues with lithium mining, to include soil degradation, damage to the eco system, indigenous people’s rights (notice all the bills “helping” the indigenous people lately), and massive amounts of water usage which in turn lead to water shortages. Also include to the list air, soil contamination, and waste.
Are we willing to sacrifice our beautiful Salt Lake in the name of progress? Are we ok with allowing large corporations to rape the land leaving it contaminated and destroyed for future generations? Are we so focused on the climate narrative that we are willing to allow corporations along with our governments to leave us with a broken and fractured earth? In an effort to keep up with the climate narrative, our earth is becoming a wasteland. All this in the name of going “green”. Are we okay with the consequences, possible long term medical issues, labor exploitation in third world countries, human rights violations, poverty, etc? Are we going to continue to watch as our fresh water is diverted to the GSL so corporations can profit? Are profits above everything else? WHAT WILL YOU DRINK IF OUR RESERVOIRS ARE EMPTIED?
We are left with more questions than we have answers for and that is not a comfortable thought. There is article after article discussing the arsenic issue in the GSL but none on the destructive issues with the evaporative lithium mining process. With headlines like, “As the Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces an ‘Environmental Nuclear Bomb’, Dust hot spots: Where is the Great Salt Lake’s toxic dust most likely to originate, or The toxic tale of the Great Salt Lake, you would think Utah’s journalists would be as interested in the destructive potential of lithium mining as they are the arsenic issue but they appear not to notice. The issues will only grow more significant if we don’t address them upfront.
Utah, are you willing to sit back and watch your lake be destroyed? If not, here are a couple things you can do:
1. Call or email your members of your city council, county council, state representatives, senators and tell them you want answers to these questions.
2. Come to the Prep for General Session Meeting on Jan 13th aat 5:30 p.m.
3. The 2023 legislative session begins January 17. We need people to show up in large numbers as well as give public comment.
4. We need people to read bills for this upcoming session. Please, do your part. Our state depends on it.