A struggling area of California is about to become extremely wealthy. 

Perhaps the last place you would think of when thinking of Southern California is Imperial County, a vast desert area three hours southeast of Los Angeles that straddles the border between the United States and Mexico.   

With only 180,000 people, it is the least populous county in the area and is home to dilapidated sites including Salvation Mountain, the Salton Sea, and Bombay Beach.  

However, there are other reasons why American officials are suddenly interested in this remote area, particularly the abundance of lithium that lies beneath the surface. 

According to a recent research, there may be sufficient of the rare mineral needed in batteries—which are in particularly high demand right now due to the popularity of electric vehicles—to make 375 million batteries for that purpose.  

The 2023 report, written by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, estimates that 3,400 kilotons of lithium are present in Imperial County, which currently bills itself as Lithium Valley. 

The sought-after mineral is largely found in Australia, China, and Chile. Over the next few decades, according to U.S. officials, demand for this "critical" resource will soar by 4,000%.    

The state claims that a salt and potassium mine in the Salton Sea region is "believed to have the highest concentration of lithium contained in geothermal brines in the world," and a prior report from the county indicated that it might take up to 100 years to extract the lithium completely. 

Although the county's median income in 2021 was closer to $49,000, some towns' median annual income is less than $2,500. Local officials believe this resource will uplift families for generations, all thanks to the strange primordial brew lurking thousands of feet beneath the surface. In a region where 24.9% of children were living in poverty in 2022. 

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