America’s Need For Lithium May Push This Plant to Extinction


Jacob Nguyen

Fewer than 40 years after the discovery of Tiehm’s buckwheat, the yellow-flowered plant from Nevada may be driven to extinction. An extinction that may be caused by the pursuit of electric vehicles that are deemed by most as environmentally friendly. 

So far, the newly discovered flower hasn’t been studied thoroughly, but it is important to guard it to protect biodiversity. 

The plant has the ability to thrive where only a few species can, in poor soil consisting in large amounts of boron and lithium. Here’s where the problem comes in, as lithium continues to gain the attention of businesses and countries, it has the risk of losing its habitat due to lithium mining. Later this year, an Australian mining company is expected to start a lithium mine on the land where Tiehm’s buckwheat grows. Under the soil lies an estimated 146.5 million metric tons of lithium and boron. The project has been valued at 1.265 billion dollars. Some argue that the lithium mine will be good for the environment, that the flowers can be relocated; However, it is a claim that environmentalists question.

Electric vehicles of the future can’t happen without lithium. This is because lithium is the critical mineral in powering electric vehicles through batteries. It is believed the existing mines and projects under construction would need to be doubled in order to sustain the lithium demand in 2030. The United States has only one active lithium mine today, but the country will need 500,000 metric tons of lithium by 2030.

In conclusion, Tiehm’s buckwheat, a plant that can grow exclusively in only Nevada, may become extinct upon the construction of a mine.