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Clean Mining Yields Metals Bonanza
CNBC.com | March 01, 2012 | 12:43 PM EST

The Simbol process leverages a current business to get raw “ore” for almost nothing, something conventional miners pay a fortune to find and exploit.

“We’re at the tail end of their process,” says Simbol’s Erceg. “The last thing I want to do is build a geothermal power plant” just to access the brine, he says.

The power plant owners receive a royalty, he says, adding that geothermal power plant operator EnergySource is a Simbol partner.

“It's great for geothermal [power plant] owners whose plants' effluent contains sufficient lithium,” says Garvin Jabusch, chief investment officer at investment firm Green Alpha Advisors. “It means they now have two revenue streams from the same operations — a dream scenario.”

He adds that for geothermal projects with the right geology “this could be a game-changer and allow the net cost of their power to compete with fossil fuels.”

Global demand for lithium is expected to jump to nearly 300,000 tons annually by 2020, according to several clean tech research firms, driven by a need for electric vehicle batteries.

Battery firms likeA123 that produce lithium ion battery for General Motors new Chevy Spark , consume 25 percent of the world’s lithium.

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