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Lithium corporations pursue limited water supplies in the Colorado River Basin

March 08, 2024
by John S. Weisheit

From Anticline Overlook and observing Dead Horse Point, Big Flat, and potash evaporation ponds.
From Anticline Overlook and observing Dead Horse Point, Big Flat, and potash evaporation ponds.
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NEW INFORMATION

Water Rights for Blackstone Lithium Extraction in Green River City, Utah.
Underground Injection Control Permits Near Dead Horse Point; Colorado River in Grand County by A1 Lithium. LLC.
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NEWS AND OPINION
Lithium Extraction and Production in the Paradox Basin of Southeast Utah

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NARRATIVES ABOUT LITHIUM EXTRACTION AND PRODUCTION WATER

There are two batches of water rights for the proposed lithium mining facility at Green River City.

The first is a water right to extract brine water from the deepest underlying layer (aquifer) of the Paradox Formation. The target mineral is lithium carbonate (and potentially other minerals such as bromine). After processing (DLE technology and addressed below), the spent brine is returned to the Paradox Formation. It is important to understand that this return flow is received at another mid-level elevation aquifer of the Paradox Formation. This water right is called a non-consumptive water use. But is it, really?

Mining is a consumptive industry, period. In this case, one aquifer will be depleted and a different aquifer will be expanded. This is a concern to us because it is a forced disruption of a natural process. For example, will these movements in brine layers incite earthquakes? Will the pressures and currents within the aquifers fracture and break well casings?

This is why the injection wells are dependent on a different and more strident regulatory permitting process (now under review and addressed below) from the Utah Department of Water Quality. These return flows by injection, will also carry dangerous chemicals, which is also discussed below.

The second water right is surface water depletion from the Green River. This freshwater withdrawal will be used to "wash" ionized fabrics that attract and bond the lithium carbonates. There are chemicals (basic and acidic) that are used in this washing/separation  process. This contaminated water is what is also returned via injection wells into the Paradox Formation.

This waste water stream is production water and it is a consumptive use.

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The Colorado and Green rivers have nothing left to give. This river basin's transformation from abundance to exhaustion occurred between the Reclamation Act of 1902 and the Shortage Guidelines of 2003.

It is imperative to understand that the cause of this water scarcity problem was a human decision to intentionally exceed the limits of "nature's bounty." This deliberate decision happened before sea level rise (induced by the melting of continental ice) was verified by empirical data, both historic and prehistoric.

Why we have passion for knowledge and wisdom one day, and then vilify it the next day, is why we face a debilitating future of scarcity in regards to ALL our finite natural resources. This includes the need and purposes for extracting rare and precious metals, such the lithium and uranium deposits found in the Colorado River Basin.

For the last 120 years, the advisors to our political leadership have recommended making appropriate changes in our management of natural resources in order to avoid the emergence of political calamities such as World War One and World War Two. The recommendations were always about adopting precautionary planning, and to create sustainible and resilient communities, which also included ecosystem functions, eventually.

We did this, just not thouroughly enough, nor timely enough. Our lack of courage and committment to finish the job is quite astounding and fearful. Because we are approaching a point of no return.

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LITHIUM PRODUCTION AND LITHIUM MARKETS 

1. Anson Resources (Australia)

Subsidiaries of Anson Resources

  • Blackstone Minerals (Las Vegas, NV)
  • A1 Lithium (Las Vegas, NV)

Chronology of Anson Resources

  • 2016 - begins operations in Grand County, Utah (near Dead Horse Point))
  • 2021 - begins operations in Green River City, Utah
  • 2023 - Annual Report
Corporate Leadership of Anson Resources
  • Listcorp: Investor Presentation (archived)
  • Bruce Richardson - Executive Chairman and CEO
  • Peter (Greg) Knox - Director (geologist).
  • Michael van Uffelan - Director (secretary).
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2. Mandrake Resources (Austrailia)
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3. Sunresin (China) and introducing a new technology called Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE)

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5. LG Energy Solutions.
Subsidiary of LG Chem (South Korea)

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6. American Battery Materials & Xantippe Resources (USA)
Lisbon Valley, San Juan County Utah
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BLACKSTONE MINERALS (Subsidiary of  Anson Resources)
Lithium extraction from the Paradox Formation
Green River City; Emery and Grand Counties, Utah

Utah Division of Water Rights
Utah Division of Water Resources
Additional Information - Green River Water Rights
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Utah Division of Water Quality
Utah Department of Environmental Quality

Aquifer Spent Brine Recovery Well (Class 5 Injection Well)
Public comments are due December 14, 2023.
Division of Water Quality
PO Box 144870
Salt Lake City, UT  84114-4870
eMail: wqcomments@utah.gov
  • What: DOGM regulated exploratory and brine sample well: Casing is 24" in diameter at top, 7.625" at the bottom. Max depth Approx 10,800`.
  • Location: Green River City, 1600 S 1015 E Green River, UT 84525.
  • Purpose: Assay for lithium content and extraction of lithium for onsite sample/demonstration purposes.
  • Explanatory: This temporary application is for the purposes of assaying deep ground brine for lithium, mineral content and other constituents to determine the viability of developing mineral extraction. Also to process brine through a small-scale temporary sample demonstration and pilot plant that is located next to the well site (Bosydaba #1) and to demonstrate the suitability of the brine for extraction and lithium production.
  • Disposal: After extracting lithium from the brine, the unaltered spent brine is returned and disposed of at DEQ disposal facility at Danish Flat Section 8, T20S R24E SLMB.
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PUBLIC HEARING INFORMATION
February 21, 2024
Class V Injection Well

DWQ is holding a public hearing to solicit further comments on the Draft Permit.
  • The informational website is located  HERE.
  • Location: Green River City Hall, 460 E Main St, Green River, Utah, 84525
  • Date: February 21, 2024
  • Time: DWQ Informational session begins at 6:00 pm
  • Time: 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • Comments will be accepted until February 23, 2024
  • eMail: wqcomments@utah.gov
  • Contact: Porter Henze at 385-566-7799
  • Internet access is not available (unless previously arranged).
Utah Department of Environmental Quality
Division of Water Quality
Second Public Notice of Permit UTU-19-F4-8F9143D
Underground Injection Control Class V Well Permit
Aquifer Spent Brine Recover Well, Category UIC Well 5C-1

Purpose: Blackstone Minerals is conducting lithium and associated brine resource mining operations in Green River, Utah. Brines will be extracted from the Paradox Formation, specifically Clastic Zone
31 using extraction wells. Brines will be processed using a lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide production plant utilizing direct extraction. The spent brine that is depleted of lithium will be
pumped into the injection wells under pressure into the Paradox formation between clastic zone 7 and 19, or about 6,040 to 6,445 feet below ground surface.

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Radiation Control Board
Utah Department of Environmental Quality

Green River City; Uranium Mill Legacy Site
Department of Energy (DOE)

  • May 1, 2024 - Letter from citizens about Blackstone Minerals lithium operations in the designated radiation zone of the Uranium Mill Legacy Site at Green River in Emery and Grand Counties.
  • May 31, 2024 -  Response to citizens. UDEQ & RCB
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YES! Canyonlands Watershed Council is a charitable organization.

  • PayPal - HERE
  • Venmo - HERE
  • Our EIN is: 87-0637713
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A1 LITHIUM IN GRAND COUNTY, UTAH
A subsidiary of Anson Resources
  • Location: Near the Colorado River in the vicinity Dead Horse Point and Big Flat and the Intrepid Potash Facility
  • Note: This proposed lithium project is presently in limbo.
Utah Division of Water Rights
Bureau of Land Management
  • A1 Lithium, Inc. submitted a revised Plan of Operations to conduct Mineral Exploration on its unpatented placer claims located approximately 9 miles west of Moab, Utah (Big Flat) by reentering two abandoned well bores, Sunburst #1 and Mineral Canyon Federal #1-3, to test brine solutions for lithium and bromine.
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PUBLIC WEBINAR: DIRECT LITHIUM EXTRACTION (DLE)
Lithium and Environmental Justise in Imperial Valley

February 15, 2024
11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Pacific ST)
Register HERE
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OTHER PERMITTING BY THE REGULATORY AGENCIES

Utah Division of Air Quality
  • We could not confirm that Anson Resources received an exemption from a air quality permit.
Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining
  • We could not confirm that a large mining permit is required.

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ADDITIONAL PUBLIC INFORMATION ABOUT LITHIUM EXTRACTION

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Consumptive water use for proposed lithium projects

  • Mandrake at Dry Valley: Unknown; potentially 150 groundwater wells?
  • A1 Lithium at Big Flat: 13,764 acre-feet per year (Colorado River)
  • Blackstone at City of Green River: 13,764 acre-feet per year (Green River)
  • Anson Resources at/near Town of Hanksville: Unknown; Fremont River water transfers from Wayne County to Grand County?
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Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE)
  • Note: There is only one DLE operation in the United States and located at Imperial County, California and in the the Salton Through (a structural depression). There is a consumptive use from the Colorado River for this project.
  • REPORT: Environmental Justice In California's Lithium Valley. Earthworks.
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Technology Reports
  • Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE). Beads of resin that attract lithium carbonate; no evaporation ponds. A technology developed in China with proprietary rights.
  • Brine in solution (liquid) is naturally delivered to the surface by the pressure of 9,000 feet of overburden. Anson claims this pressure is sustainable for the project's lifetime (reference), but this statement is a double negative.
  • A conceptual exploration target of between 2.1 and 2.56 billion tonnes of brine, grading between 108 and 200 parts per million (ppm) lithium and between 2,000 and 3,000 ppm bromine (reference).
  • For the purpose of providing a constrast to Anson's lithium target, the concentration of the potassium target in the Paradox Formation can be as high as 42,000 parts per million.
  • The return on investment for these two resources is nearly equivalent. We think protecting the water resources of the Colorado River Basin is what is truly priceless.
  • Report: Environmental Justice In California's Lithium Valley. Earthworks.
  • Report: Identifying Potential Hydrologic Impacts of Lithium Extraction in Nevada. Saftner, 2023; DRI for TNC.
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Paradox Project by A1 Lithium; subsidiary of Anson Resources
Located near Dead Horse Park in Grand County and Canyonlands National Park in San Juan County, Utah.
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Paradox Project by Blackstone; subsidiary of Anson Resources
Green River Project: City of Green River in Emery County Utah
Wayne County Water Transfers to Emery County
  • 40-year Plan. Wayne County Water Conservancy District.
  • Note: The 40-year plan does not mention litium extraction. The water conservancy district of Wayne County does not have a public web page about their activities.
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Presentations

Public

Agency

  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Note: Reclamation believes an environmental assessement for a federal water contract is required.
Corporate
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Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining
Research and Well Logs
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Subcontractors

  • Mike Swenson - attorney from Emery County in Orangeville, Utah.
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Geology

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Green River City Council: Special Meeting of November 13, 2023 (This meeting was not noticed in the public record.)

Areas near City of Moab
  • There will be water diversions in Grand County.
  • There are well pads and they are small.
  • We have drilled near Moab and determined lithium extraction will be successful.
  • Note: We could not verify this statement; they may be referring to drill logs from other company operations.
  • The lithium reserve may by one to three million metric tons. Currently the price for lithium carbonate is between $20,000 to 30,000 per ton. The low end is $7,000 and high end is $50,000.
  • We intend to use this lithium resource in the USA. Most lithium is exported from Argentina and China.

Areas near City of Green River
  • We want to work in Green River for railway and interstate transportation and for a work force and to be near a flowing river.
  • We hope to discover a viable similar to the Moab location. There are brine layers in the vicinity and we intend to drill some exploratory wells.
  • Water diversions are required and we have a lease agreement from Green River Corporation.
  • There will be no return flows back to the Green River. They will be injected into the Paradox Formation.
  • There are well pads and they are small.
  • We are not piping brine from Moab to Green River. BLM won’t allow that.
  • Footprint will be about 18 acres. There will be a warehouse-like building. It will be in city limits and not in Grand County.
  • We are working with the utilities. We are not that far along.
  • 300 construction jobs for two years. 50 to 70 employees after that. Don’t know what the salaries will be.
  • "This is going to happen whether you like it or not. Otherwise you’ll have China in your background."
  • Point of diversion on our property. We have a change application in process.
  • We intend to apply for an air quality permit; we understand we will get an exemption (di minimus)
  • Don’t have a chemical list quite yet. Hydrochloric acid will be necessary.  Don’t know how much.
The company and its subsidiaries
  • We can apply for government energy subsidies.
  • We havea website with limited information.
  • We have expertise in Boca Raton, Florida.
  • Our lithium meets or exceeds the standards of Tesla, Inc.
  • We intend to provide scholarships to school children in Emery County.
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Narrative about the Paradox Basin

Sub-surface brines in the Paradox Formation of eastern Utah can carry trace amounts of lithium carbonate (an inorganic compound of lithium, carbon and oxygen) at depths about 9,000 feet. Another desireable trace mineral includes bromine. Deposits here are below sea level, under extreme pressures, and at temperatures higher than a hot tub.

The Paradox Basin region includes the counties of the "four corner states:" Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. Grand County, Utah has the most crustal deformation, which is caused by the dissolution of the underlying salt formations, due to hosting the incised canyons of the Colorado River and its close proximity to the La Sal Mountains, which condenses a significant amount of precipitation from the atmosphere (meteoric water) and dispersed as groundwater and as spring fed surface water.

The Paradox Formation consists of diverse layers of gypsum, anhydrite, and salt, interbedded with shale, sandstone, and limestone. There are geologic traps that contain reserves of petroleum, natural gas, carbon dioxide, and helium.

The Paradox Formation was formed in the Pennsylvania Period near stuctural depressions along the coast of the ancestral Rocky Mountains and the ancestral Pacific Ocean. Very similar to structural depressions such as the Salton Through and Death Valley in California (Basin and Range Province).

Sea level fluctuations were wildly aggressive during that time period. The basins filled with seawater and then evaporated away in at least 33 individual cycles, or until these basins were completely filled with deposits of sea water evaporates.

And then they were buried at depth by subsequent formations (overburden) during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras, which are now being incised and dessicated by the aggressive erosive power of the Colorado River, which is even piercing through the Paradox Formation in Moab-Spanish Valley, Utah, and Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park. This includes a tributary, the Dolores River, adjacent to the eastern slopes of the La Sal Mountains at Paradox Valley, Colorado.

Drilling pads are required to mechanically install steel well casings into a targeted layer of brine, so that fresh water can be injected into the layer to dissolve the brine and bring it to the surface for processing. Anson consultants says that the brine layers they are targeting are already saturated and that injection is not required. We understand this statement to be an untested hypothesis. Additionally, Anson uses the word "replenishment" when discussing the resource zones to be targeted.

Solution mining and solar evaporation ponds to crystallize the desired mineral, is not a new technology. For decades the Intrepid Potash mining company near Moab, Utah has perfected solution mining techniques to extract potash (potassium chloride) from the Paradox Formation and for industrial uses, especially for food production.

What is different about Anson Resource's proposed and untested technology for mineral extraction in the Paradox Basin, is that evaporation ponds are not necessary to remove the processing liquids. They intend to use beads of resin that attract the lithium ions that this process crystalizes. This technology was developed in China and requires a licensing agreement for users such as Anson Resources.

The processing water is then returned to the subsurface with injection wells, which requires the drilling of more well cases and utilizing high pressure pumps, which also is not a new technology, but requires a 10-year operating permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For instance, the Bureau of Reclamation's operating permit in the western Colorado intercepts brine water that seeps into the Dolores River. Reclamation then injects the captured brine at depths of 16,000 feet (the deepest well casings in the world). This facility is located at Paradox Valley, Colorado, which is the name sake (type locality) for the Paradox Formation.

This practice by Reclamation has been recently modified to smaller injection volumes to avoid the hazards of earthquakes. Another public concern is pressurized brine can cause fractures in crustal rocks (hydro-fracking) and this leakage under pressure could contaminate nearby layers of fresh groundwater.

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The serious issues about drilling for rare metals in the Paradox Basin to make car batteries include installing well casings that wobble, warp, buckle and break in geologic formations that resemble toothpaste, rather than durable bedrock.

Also how to avoid accidentally venting hydrogen sulfide gas, natural gas, nitrogen gas, and helium gas into the atmosphere, at the work place, or into the neighborhood.

Not to forget how to avoid mobilizing formation water at depths between 8 and 10 thousand feet that is very stinky and toxic (hydrogen sulfide).

We also think it is important to mention that lithium batteries will not power these operations. What will power and construct the intense extractive operations of Anson Resources is fossil fuels.

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Drilling issues near the Green River in Grand County, Utah.

"The Salt Wash field is located 15 miles southeast of Green River, Utah, in the Paradox fold and fault belt. The field was discovered in 1961 and has produced over 1.3 million bbl of oil and 11.6 billion ft of gas from the Mississippian Leadville LImestone. The average surface elevation is 4,389 ft above sea level, and the depth to the top of the oil production is form 8,500 to 8,914 ft. Salt Wash field is an anticline with over 200 ft of closure on top of the Leadville. The producing zone is in the lower Leadville with intercrystalline and vuggy porosity developed in limestone and crystalline dolomitic limestone. The produced oil is a 50 to 53 API gravity crude with a 40 degrees F pour point. The gas, a mixture of two sources, is predominately nitrogen with some hydrocarbons (>10%) and smaller amounts of carbon dioxide and helium. All of the original wells suffered casing collapse in the overlying Paradox section resulting in their premature abandonment.

Additional undeveloped Leadville reserves may still be present. There may also be undiscovered reserves in the stratigraphically higher Cane Creek shale of the Pennsylvanian Paradox Formation in the Salt Wash field. The field is roughly 12 mi northwest of the Kane Springs unit where Columbia Gas has been completing horizontally drilled wells in the Cane Creek. The State 1-16A in Salt Wash field recovered 600 ft of 52 API gravity crude and no water from a drill-stem test of the Cane Creek. The State 1-16A well in Salt Wash field recovered 600 ft of 52 API gravity crude and no water from a drill-stem test of the Cane Creek. Reverse faulting and recumbent folding combined with structural closure increases the potential for fracture development in the Cane Creek at Salt Wash field."

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