Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Mine Extracting 'Lithium For Electric Cars'

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Mine Extracting 'Lithium For Electric Cars' UT Copper Mine

Does a photo show mining operations extracting "lithium for electric cars," as a meme on Facebook claimed? No, that's not true: According to the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining, the image is of the Rio Tinto Kennecott mine in Magna, Utah, where no lithium mining occurs. The agency confirmed that the "image is false." The Rio Tinto mine extracts copper, gold, silver, molybdenum and tellurium, according to its website.

The post on Facebook on April 14, 2024 (archived here), implied a photo showed a mine extracting "lithium for electric cars." A caption with the post read:


Below is how the post appeared at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-04-17 at 5.52.27 AM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Apr 17 20:03:55 2024 UTC)

Lead Stories determined the mine's location by first conducting a reverse image search (archived here) that returned several links to websites identifying the location as Bingham Mine outside Salt Lake City, Utah. One such example included an article published by NASA Earth Observatory in 2013 (archived here).

Hollie Brown, a public information officer for the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (archived here), confirmed to Lead Stories that the image shows the Rio Tinto Kennecott mine in Magna, Utah.

"There is no lithium mining at Kennecott, so the claim 'lithium for electric cars' with that image is false," Brown wrote Lead Stories in an email received on April 17, 2024.

According to its website (archived here), the Rio Tinto mine extracts copper, gold, silver, molybdenum and tellurium -- not lithium. It is owned by Kennecott Utah Copper LLC (Kennecott) and is sometimes called the Bingham Canyon Mine (archived here).

Shown below is the Google Maps aerial photograph (archived here) of the Kennecott Mine (right), compared with the image on Facebook (left):

Mine 1.png

(Source: Lead Stories screenshot compilation)

A higher-resolution visual of the mine was also available on Google Earth (archived here). A side-by-side comparison of closer details in the photo shared to Facebook (left) compared with the satellite imagery from Google Earth (right) shows the same number of bends in the road and a roundabout-like feature next to a darker structure, which we have circled in red:

Mine 2.png

(Source: Lead Stories screenshot compilation)

NASA describes Kennecott's Bingham Canyon Mine (archived here) as one of the largest open-pit mines in the world, measuring more than 2.5 miles wide and 3,900 feet deep.

Lead Stories has debunked other claims related to electric vehicles, which can be read here.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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