New evidence suggests McDermitt Caldera may be among the largest known lithium reserves in the world

According to information presented by three volcanologists and geologists from Lithium Americas Corporation, GNS Science, and Oregon State University, the McDermitt Caldera, located on the border between Nevada and Oregon, may contain some of the world's biggest known lithium reserves. Thomas Benson, Matthew Coble, and John Dilles analyzed sections of the caldera in their study, which was published in the journal Science Advances. From there, they devised a theory to explain how so many lithium deposits evolved in the region.

Lithium has gained significant value over the last few decades mainly because of its extensive application in various battery types. Scientists at mining firms like Lithium Americas Corporation have been searching for sources because of its continuous growth in value.

The dimensions of the McDermitt Caldera are around 45 km long and 35 km broad. Previous studies have shown that it originated as a component of the Yellowstone hotspot, which caused a series of calderas to emerge. It was first created about 19 million years ago.

Another group of researchers discovered data in 2017 suggesting that Thacker Pass, a section of the caldera, may have some of the greatest lithium deposits ever discovered. After acquiring a stake in the location, Lithium Americas started conducting mining operations tests. Locals and Native American organizations soon began to oppose them, but they finally prevailed and were allowed to mine at the location.

In an effort to determine the ideal location for the start of significant mining activities, the research team has been gathering and examining samples ever since. However, in order to locate it, they—along with a large number of other specialists in the field—think that they need to figure out how the lithium got there in the first place. The researchers provide a theory in their article, which Lithium Americas intends to use when it starts its mining operations.

According to their idea, the Montana Mountains were formed as a result of a hydrothermal enrichment that took place after a volcano erupted and caused magma to force its way to the caldera's core. Due to the cracks, fissures, and fractures that resulted from it, lithium was able to flow upward toward the surface. A large portion of the smectite was also converted by this process into illite, which are various types of clay minerals that end up around the basin's southern rim. That, they think, explains the high concentration of lithium in that area.