The UK government is supporting a project by Cornish Lithium and Geothermal Engineering to construct a geothermal lithium recovery pilot plant— as Europe begins to move its battery material focus away from China.
The project aims to demonstrate that lithium can be produced from UK geothermal waters with a net zero carbon footprint.
The pilot plant will trial Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology, with the process being considered using nanofiltration that selectively removes lithium compounds from the water, rather than through evaporation.
Plans to extract lithium from former tin mines in Cornwall were first announced in 2017, with the materials set to enter the battery markets.
The UK Government plans to invest the undisclosed sum through its Getting Building Fund.
The investment will form part of the overall costs of £4 million ($5.2 million) that will take place at Geothermal Engineering’s deep geothermal project in Cornwall.
Jeremy Wrathall, founder and CEO of Cornish Lithium told BEST: “The pilot plant project is the first step along the road to commercial extraction from the brine but we are also conducting extensive commercial testing on our other project, which aims to extract lithium from granite deposits near St Austell, Cornwall. This work is also looking very promising.
He added: “We believe that Cornwall has the potential to become the “battery metals hub” for the UK.”
In 2017, Cornish Lithium raised £1 million ($1.3 million) from three international investors to kick-start plans to collate a digital log of “all relevant data on lithium occurrences in Cornwall” before applying for drilling permits.
Earlier this month, Australian firm Vulcan Energy Resources announced it had produced lithium concentrate from the Upper Rhine Valley areas of Germany using bench-scale DLE tests.
In two different tests using pre-selected DLE absorbents, the lithium recovery rates were above 90%, said the firm.
Australian-owned European Metals Holdings announced on 10 Aug that drilling had begun at its Cinovec Lithium-Tin Project in the Czech Republic. The goal is to collect ore samples for metallurgical testing. Geomet— owned by European Metals (49%) and CEZ (51%)— own the exploration license for the site.
In June, Australian listed minerals firm Infinity Lithium received EIT InnoEnergy funding of €800,000 ($939,000) for the first phase of a pilot plant in San José Lithium project in Spain. Part of the deal includes EIT facilitating negotiations with European off-takers through the European Battery Alliance.