CHEYENNE — The operator of two trona mine production facilities in Sweetwater County recently applied for a state mineral lease in the area of a new lithium find.
FMC Corporation spokeswoman Barbara Del Duke wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune that there is little information about the lithium deposit at this time but the company is prepared to consider potential opportunities.
“While FMC has not yet determined the deposit’s resource viability, we have submitted an application to the state in order to be included in any future considerations relating to it. This is not a commitment of future business plans,” the email said.
228,000 tons of lithium
The University of Wyoming Carbon Management Institute reported in April finding upwards of 228,000 tons of lithium in southwest Wyoming while studying a future storage site for carbon emissions. Lithium is a key component of electronic devices. It also plays a key role in lithium-ion batteries that store excess energy for later use in wind, solar and smart-grid technologies.
FMC Corporation is the second applicant to file for a minerals lease in the area of the major find.
David Miller, of Riverton, a state legislator and a geologist, was the first.
The applications are on hold until the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners decides how to handle the leases, which have an enormous potential value based on current market prices.
The state board includes Gov. Matt Mead, Secretary of State Max Maxfield, Auditor Cynthia Cloud, Treasurer Mark Gordon and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.
The board on Thursday asked for a tutorial on lithium at a future meeting.
“This is the first time any of us have considered the fact we have lithium,” Maxfield said.
Maxfield said he didn’t believe any state board member was prepared at this time to decide whether to award the leases to the first person or entity that filed or to put the leases up for bids.
Ron Surdam, director of the Carbon Management Institute, said he wasn’t surprised that FMC filed for the leases.
Surdam said he’s fielded a lot of phone calls about the lithium find.
“When we made the press release, we felt the lithium recovery would be tied to carbon sequestration,” he said.
“We weren’t saying that this is going to be stand alone and people would go out there and recover just lithium.”
Surdam said he wished people better appreciated the integrated approach the scientists were proposing.
“To do that you need to produce formation fluids and we could turn that into a revenue center by retrieving fresh water and lithium,” he said. “It’s that systems approach that I think a lot of people missed.”