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NASA Opposes Lithium Mining in Nevada Citing Satellite Calibration Concerns

published: 2023-07-03 9:30

In an unexpected turn of events, NASA has joined environmentalists, tribal leaders, and concerned citizens in growing opposition against lithium mining in Nevada. The unusual alliance stems from the concern that mining activities may interfere with satellite calibration.

The arid expanses of Nevada, once home to ancient lake beds, are abundant in lithium. This mineral is crucial for the production of batteries used in EVs and energy storage systems. Despite its vast reserves, NASA has cited that the plains of Nevada have traditionally served as an essential calibration field for satellite due to their broad, sparsely populated, and level terrain. Over the past three decades, NASA has fine-tuned hundreds of satellites in these locales to ensure their accuracy and functionality.

Prompted by NASA’s objections, the US Bureau of Land Management has conceded to withdraw 36 square miles of Nevada land from the federal listing of potential mineral exploration and mining territories. These withdrawn tracts, primarily situated in an open mining district in the east, are touted as vital to gathering space information and used in a variety of sectors such as weather forecasting, national security, agricultural operations, and natural disaster management. Since 2016, NASA has leveraged this open terrain to calibrate over 250 satellites.

The Carson City-based company in Nevada, which boasts a majority of lithium mining rights, has countered these concerns. It claimed that the company's use of brine extraction for lithium development would not adversely affect the surface. Despite these assurances, NASA continues to staunchly oppose any form of mining activity, citing the inability to find suitable alternative sites for satellite calibration in the U.S. This stand by NASA has led to the cessation of lithium mining in the region.

Nevertheless, Republican representatives in Nevada, staunch supporters of the mining industry, appear to be readying for a fight. Proposals are underway to ask Congress to rescind its land withdrawal orders, considering that these lithium reserves rank among the top ten globally. The escalating demand for electric vehicles and the energy storage market undeniably highlights the economic potential of these mining territories. It seems these representatives are now preparing to take on NASA in this unfolding battle over Nevada's subterranean riches.

 (Image Source: NASA)

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