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Compass Minerals to abandon lithium extraction on Great Salt Lake

By Ben Winslow - Fox 13 | Feb 8, 2024
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In this undated photo, mineral harvesting ponds used by Compass Minerals cover the northeast corner of the Great Salt Lake. Multiple companies pump the mineral-rich water of the lake into shallow ponds and collect the byproduct after the water has evaporated.
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Great Salt Lake Collaborative

Editor’s note: This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.

OGDEN, Utah — Compass Minerals, a major mineral extraction company operating on the Great Salt Lake, has announced it will abandon a lucrative lithium brine project.

In a report to shareholders on Thursday, the company said its lithium development team in Ogden has been disbanded and the project will not go forward.

“The environment surrounding our lithium project today is markedly different than the one that existed a couple of years ago when we started down this path. The simple fact is that the regulatory risks have increased significantly around this project. When combined with other changes to the commercial landscape, it became clear that the risk-adjusted returns on this project are inadequate to justify the investment,” said Compass Minerals CEO Edward Dowling in a statement.

The “regulatory risks” could refer to a major bill being heard in the Utah State Legislature taking aim at mineral extraction in an effort to protect the Great Salt Lake. The bill by Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise, would have placed more of a priority on getting water into the lake, which shrunk to a historic low in 2022. The Utah Manufacturers Association told FOX 13 News it was not supportive of that legislation.

“Compass Minerals will continue to monitor and engage in legislative and regulatory processes in Utah to preserve the long-term optionality of the lithium potential at its Ogden operations,” the company said in its shareholder report.

The company had invested more than $77 million in its projects.

Lithium is increasingly needed in our electrified world, but Utah political leaders have had to balance the water-intensive mineral extraction with protecting the lake, which faces ecological collapse and presents a public health threat in the form of toxic dust storms, reduced snowpack and other harms.


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