ExxonMobil has taken a significant step into the lithium mining sector by leasing around 120,000 acres in southern Arkansas for $100 million. The region, once known for its oil boom, is now attracting attention for its high lithium content in brine, making it a crucial resource for modern technology.
Southern Arkansas, particularly the City of Magnolia and Lafayette County, was historically renowned for the Smackover Formation—an underground aquifer spanning from Texas to Florida that led to an oil boom a century ago. As oil reserves dwindled, the region faced economic challenges. However, the Smackover Formation still holds valuable treasures, with the highest reported lithium in brine values in North America.
ExxonMobil’s significant acreage acquisition is expected to inject new life into the area’s economy. Other companies have also shown interest in the region, exploring lithium concentrations in the brine produced during oil drilling operations.
Lithium-rich brine is a prime source of the mineral, commonly known as “white gold.” ExxonMobil aims to establish large lithium processing facilities in the region, potentially producing up to 15% of global lithium output. Lithium is an essential component in batteries used in various devices, including phones, computers, and electric vehicles.
The move towards lithium mining in the U.S. comes as the country seeks to reduce its reliance on foreign sources, particularly China, and looks for alternatives to fossil fuels. For Arkansas, this presents an opportunity to further capitalize on its natural resources, including oil, natural gas, timber, bromine, and now, potentially, lithium—a valuable asset that cannot be easily transplanted, according to Parnell Vann, the mayor of Magnolia.
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