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Tesla factor: Rise of electric cars is recharging Nevada’s lithium industry

RENO, Nevada — Take away the remnants of more than 200 exploratory drill holes and you’re left with a rural landscape that looks just like any other in Humboldt County.

Beneath all that sagebrush and dry dirt, however, lies a metal that could potentially charge the Silver State in more ways than one.

It’s a project that represents a $40 million gamble so far for Western Lithium. That’s how much the company has spent to prove the existence of a resource that’s seeing increased demand in a technology-hungry world: lithium.

Western Lithium plans to spend even more. If it gets government approval, the company says it will invest up to $300 million on lithium mining and plant operations.

With the advent of smartphones and other portable devices, lithium saw its value skyrocket tenfold from 2000 to 2010 before stabilizing to $6,000 per ton in recent years, according to U.S.-based development company Lithium Exploration Group.

What’s truly energizing interest in domestic lithium production, however, is the prospect of Tesla Motors’ ascendance, along with a massive $5 billion Gigafactory that is being pushed by its chief executive officer, Elon Musk.
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