In the UK, internal combustion engine cars no longer have a great future. From the year 2030, only vehicles with electric drives are to be registered. However, a lot of lithium is required to produce the batteries required for this. The price of the metal has therefore skyrocketed in recent years. In addition, demand is likely to continue to rise in the future. As a result, new mining methods are increasingly being considered. Among other things, consideration is being given to extracting lithium from the wastewater from mines and fracking plants. In addition, geothermal power plants in the Upper Rhine Rift could serve as a source. The British Lithium company in Cornwall is pursuing a completely different approach. The company uses an old clay mine there to extract lithium. However, the valuable metal is stored here in granite.
The first pilot system is intended to convince potential customers
In addition, the lithium content is comparatively low. In the large mining plants in Australia, for example, it is around four times higher. The engineers at British Lithium can score with a particularly efficient processing process. They have developed a process that requires significantly lower temperatures. The consumption of chemicals could also be reduced. Both of these reduce costs and make lithium from granite competitively priced. So far, however, these have been more or less theoretical calculations. Because only now has the first larger pilot plant been put into operation. In the future, this will produce five kilograms of lithium carbonate every day. Of course, that is still too little to contribute to the global lithium supply. But it should be enough to prove to potential customers that the technology works.
A third of the UK’s lithium demand could be met
Subsequently, investments are to be made in the construction of a significantly larger processing plant. This is also to be created in the immediate vicinity of the mining site. This avoids longer transports of the rock, which reduces the impact on the environment and the climate. According to current plans, production will then run at full speed in three to five years. Then 21,000 tons of lithium carbonate would be extracted from granite annually. After all, this would correspond to around a third of the amount required in the whole of Great Britain. This is also good news for the Cornwall region. Because coal was mined there for a long time. Most of these jobs have now been lost due to the energy transition. Now the mining of lithium could create new jobs. The technology can also be used in other locations with comparable geological conditions.