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Governor Newsom highlights major progress in 'Lithium Valley'

Ten to 12,000 new jobs are now a reality to those living in Imperial Valley thanks to a chemical some call "white gold" or Lithium.

SAN DIEGO — Ten to 12,000 new jobs are now a reality to those living in Imperial Valley thanks to a chemical some call "white gold" or Lithium.

"The entire industry has moved in this space. We want to dominate. We see this as the greatest economic opportunity, and we want to dominate in this space, and we're doing that," said California Governor Gavin Newsom.

"This is the holy grail and opportunity for the community," said Gov. Newsom as he held up a bottle of Lithium. 

Lithium is essential for battery production. 

CBS 8 went to what many called Lithium Valley in February last year when we learned 8,000 feet below the Salton Sea is one of the largest lithium deposits in the world.

The California Energy Commission estimates the Salton Sea can produce enough lithium to support 5 million electric vehicle batteries annually.

"In retrospect, 5 million EVs on the road removes 1.95 billion gallons of gas annually. That’s equivalent to 23 million metric tons of CO2  from exhaust pipe emissions," said a local leader in Imperial Valley. 

Automobile makers, including Tesla and General Motors, require lithium for battery-powered cars. General Motors has plans for 30 fully electric models by 2025.

"Right here, where we stand, is the 5th largest lithium deposit in the world. It has the potential to supply the lithium needed for cars for our future, batteries for our clean energy revolution, and that has already been kick-started in California under the leadership of Governor Gavin Newsom," said Congressman Raul Ruiz.

"80% specifically will go back to the community and economic development opportunities and 20% to the Salton Sea; that’s never happened before. Over 50 plus manufacturers in electric vehicles just here in the state alone; it's one of our largest exports, manufactured in the state of California, in Lancaster," said Gov. Newsom.

"Together, we are reaching toward a clean energy future for the Salton Sea and our communities, a future with good paying Union jobs filled with local workers, a future with lower energy costs for families in Southern California and all across the nation," said Congressman Ruiz.

The area has declined for decades, with many struggling to find work. At one point, Imperial County had the highest unemployment rate in California, but Governor Newsom says that won’t be the case any longer.

"It's about people. It's about the lived experience. I'm not naïve. We talked about states and the fact that we had 7.8% GDP growth; eat your heart out, Texas and Florida. We've talked about how we have the 4th largest economy in the world. Eat your heart out, Germany," said Gov. Newsom. 

WATCH RELATED: 'Saudi Arabia of lithium' is in Southern California

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