LITHIUM IS COMING TO TOWN: Well, a summit about lithium is coming to town.

Arkansas is still new to the lithium extraction scene, but experts in the industry have wasted no time in organizing a conference.

The Arkansas Lithium Innovation Summit will be held at the Robinson Center in downtown Little Rock over the next two days. Gov. Sarah Sanders will kick off the welcome event at 9 a.m. Thursday, along with U.S. Sen. John Boozman and state Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald. The show wraps up Friday before lunch.

Advertisement

Lithium — a soft, silvery metal — is key to making the batteries that power devices from phones to electric vehicles. As EVs and other battery-powered technologies become more widely used, the demand for lithium is expected to increase rapidly. 

Last fall, ExxonMobil announced it was about to start drilling a 10,000-foot deep well in south Arkansas to begin extracting lithium-rich saltwater from far underground. (Other, smaller companies such as Standard Lithium have been working on extracting and processing lithium in the region for several years.) Exxon expects to be producing lithium by 2027. The process by which the brine-extracted lithium will be produced is expected to have a significantly lower environmental impact than traditional lithium mining methods.

Advertisement

Sanders, however, has sent mixed signals about the transition to a more electrified future. In January, just two months after she appeared at the Exxon announcement, Sanders joined 15 other Republican governors in writing a letter to the Biden administration that criticized federal rules pushing for an increase in electric vehicles. But the lithium that Arkansas will soon be harvesting is what makes those electric vehicles possible, and Sanders has not been shy to boast about the expected economic boost the new industry could provide Arkansas.

This week’s lithium summit will include officials from ExxonMobil and other leaders from the industry. Regular people were invited, too, but the tickets are all sold out. Here’s the full agenda if you’re interested.

Advertisement