British Lithium receives new government funding
British Lithium has been awarded a new grant by the UK government’s Sustainable Innovation Fund to build a pilot plant for its Li-Sep technology to extract battery-grade lithium from micaceous granite in South West England.
The company said the funding of over GBP2.9 million ($4 million) would be used to progress plans for a pilot plant that is being developed by its Cornwall-based research arm to prove the sustainability and commercial benefits of so called Li-Sep technology.
Seaborne lithium carbonate prices assessed weekly by S&P Global Platts have climbed by 57.5 percent since the start of 2021 to trade at $10,000/mt CIF North Asia as of March 12. The commodity is a key battery metal used in the production of electric vehicles. The UK has said it will ban the sale of fossil fuel powered passenger vehicles by as early as 2030, triggering rising demand for EVs in the world’s sixth-largest economy.
The UK government previously announced its Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy that included prioritizing the transition to a zero-carbon global economy as well as exploring opportunities around domestic extraction and processing of critical minerals. These include lithium and the recovery, recycling and reuse of critical minerals to establish a viable circular economy.
“This will put Cornwall at the heart of our national future industrial strategy and attract the investment and well-paid jobs Cornwall needs,” Steve Double, the Member of Parliament for St Austell and Newquay said following the announcement.
British Lithium said Li-Sep technology concentrated the lithium-mica that occurs in granite without the use of harmful chemicals, before extracting it with minimum carbon emissions and waste to achieve a very low carbon footprint.
The company first started drilling for lithium in the UK in early 2019 and began its fourth and largest drilling campaign in February 2021. It hopes to move onto full scale production of 21,000 mt/year of lithium carbonate in three to five years' time.
Cornish Lithium is also looking to produce lithium in Cornwall, a previous mining hub for tin during the industrial revolution. The company welcomed the government's commitment to lithium extraction in the county, saying it would drive investment in domestic industries.
The company's CEO Jeremy Wrathall said he was encouraged by the outlined commitments and said Cornish Lithium was “well-placed to deliver a domestic supply of lithium from Cornwall to support the government's vision of creating strong domestic foundations that will secure a prosperous and resilient UK in 2030, through the development of a domestic raw materials supply chain and a mineral extraction industry to support it.”
“A supply of lithium is key in the development of clean, green technologies that will contribute to achieving the country's net zero emissions target,” Wrathall said.
British Lithium will also be presenting its project to delegates at COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow in November.