Unlocking Hidden Wealth: Lithium Found in Shale Pyrites

Lithium demand has surged in recent years to, leading to the exploration of alternative sources beyond traditional pegmatites and volcanic clays.

A research team from West Virginia University (WVU) is exploring the potential of past industrial sites like mines as new lithium sources, aiming to utilize existing waste. Their findings suggest that organic-rich shale could be particularly promising for lithium extraction due to its interaction with pyrite.

The team, under Professor Shikha Sharma and the IsoBioGeM Lab, will present these discoveries at the 2024 European Geosciences Union General Assembly.

The push for more lithium sources is driven by the need for sustainable energy solutions, especially in electric vehicle batteries. As lithium-ion batteries dominate the market, finding sustainable lithium sources has become critical. Researchers are looking at industrial by-products such as mine tailings as viable alternatives, which could reduce new waste production.

In their study, the researchers analyzed fifteen Devonian shale samples from the Appalachian basin, focusing on extracting lithium from various rock phases including carbonates and pyrites. The study revealed that samples with lower lithium content could extract significant amounts from pyrite alone.

This surprising finding shows that pyrite, coupled with organic materials, could play a key role in lithium distribution in shales. However, the specific geochemical processes involved remain unclear.

Overall, the research highlights the potential of extracting lithium from pyrite in organic-rich shales, suggesting that shale pyrite in the Appalachian Basin could be a viable source without the need for new mining operations.

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