Imerys to open lithium mine in France
Imerys announced that it plans to begin lithium production from its Beauvoir Mine in the Allier department in central France. The French company conducted a survey that found the mine would allow the company to produce 34 kt (37,500 st) of lithium hydroxide for at least 25 years from 2028 to supply around 700,000 electric vehicles and become the leading supplier of lithium in France.
France 24 reported that the announcement comes as European miners are rushing to launch domestic production of the raw material, a crucial component for electric vehicle production, currently sourced almost entirely from outside the bloc.
Electric cars are a key plank of European Union plans to cut emissions, and the bloc is trying to reduce reliance on battery supplies from Asia through projects with European-based carmakers and battery specialists.
French President Emmanuel Macron told the financial daily Les Echos that his administration wanted to make electric vehicles “accessible to everyone.”
Macron then proceeded to announce a series of measures to enable households to acquire electric vehicles.
With the EU seeking to ban the sale of combustion engine vehicles from 2035, France is trying to gradually phase out fossil-fuel cars.
While the move is seen as an essential step on the road to energy transition, it also poses a serious problem: it will require massive quantities of metals needed to manufacture batteries, especially lithium.
Almost all the critical minerals currently come from outside the continent, with China dominating the global supply chain. The world's main lithium suppliers also include Australia and Argentina.
Since 2015, production volumes of lithium have tripled worldwide, reaching 100 kt/a (110,000 stpy) by 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last month that "lithium and rare earths will soon be more important than oil and gas," adding that the bloc's demand for rare earths alone will increase fivefold by 2030.
“This project, which is exemplary from an environmental and climate perspective, will significantly reduce our need to import lithium and enable us to produce nearly 700,000 electric vehicle batteries per year. It will contribute to the objective set by the President of the Republic to produce 2 million electric vehicles in France by 2030 and will be supported by the Government,” said Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty.
Various miners are exploring domestic European lithium projects including in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic.
Photo: Imerys’ Beauvoir lithium mine in Allier, France. Source: Imerys.