Cor­nish Lithium in ‘glob­ally sig­nif­i­cant’ find

Ex­plorer says mine near Re­druth could help to meet UK de­mand for the metal to power e-ve­hi­cles

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Rachel Mil­lard

LITHIUM ex­plorer Cor­nish Lithium says it has found “glob­ally sig­nif­i­cant” grades of the metal undergroun­d in Corn­wall, rais­ing hopes it could meet a large amount of the UK’s de­mand for the bat­tery ma­te­rial.

The pri­vate busi­ness, headed by for­mer min­ing an­a­lyst Jeremy Wrathall, has been sam­pling geo­ther­mal wa­ter near Re­druth and says “it al­most couldn’t be­lieve” the re­sults show­ing av­er­age con­cen­tra­tions of 220mg per litre.

Lithium is a key in­gre­di­ent in elec­tric car bat­ter­ies but China, Aus­tralia and Chile cur­rently dom­i­nate sup­ply, trig­ger­ing ef­forts to de­velop sup­ply chains closer to home.

Cor­nish Lithium re­ceived some funding last year from a gov­ern­ment­backed study to as­sess the fea­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing a UK lithium sup­ply. It has also used crowd­fund­ing. It has been study­ing lithium de­posits in hot wa­ter brines that welled up in many of Corn­wall’s dis­used tin mines.

Mr Wrathall said the project could be in com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion over the next three to five years. This would co­in­cide with a ramp-up in de­mand for elec­tric cars as a ban on new sales of petrol and diesel cars looms in 2035.

He stressed it was early days and po­ten­tial vol­umes were not clear yet, but added: “We be­lieve the amount we could ex­tract will be sig­nif­i­cant. The Fara­day In­sti­tute has said the UK will need about 60,000 tonnes of lithium car­bon­ate by 2035.

“We be­lieve we could pro­duce a sig­nif­i­cant amount of that. So it’s not a triv­ial amount. It could be that the UK could sup­ply a sig­nif­i­cant amount – hope­fully all of it. But I don’t know yet.

“This will be en­vi­ron­men­tally

The com­pany has been study­ing lithium de­posits in hot wa­ter brines that well up in many of Corn­wall’s tin mines

friendly lithium for the UK. This will be pro­duced here and then taken to a bat­tery fac­tory hope­fully in Corn­wall; that is a re­ally ex­cit­ing and green op­por­tu­nity.”

The devel­op­ment would be a boost to Corn­wall, which is grap­pling with a rapid in­crease in un­em­ploy­ment. The area was once known for its min­ing in­dus­try but the last tin mine closed in 1998. Ef­forts are un­der way to restart it fol­low­ing a rise in the global price of tin.

How­ever, ex­perts cau­tioned that record low lithium prices, partly due to the knock to the global econ­omy caused by coro­n­avirus, could make it dif­fi­cult to get funding for Cor­nish Lithium’s project.

“It’s a pos­i­tive move for the UK but still in the very early stages,” Andy Miller, an an­a­lyst at con­sul­tancy Bench­mark Min­eral In­tel­li­gence, said.

“The devel­op­ment of new types of re­sources out­side of brine in South Amer­ica and spo­dumene in Aus­tralia are go­ing to be needed.” Mr Wrathall said the com­pany was “ac­tively think­ing” about mov­ing to a pub­lic list­ing, pos­si­bly within two to three years.

“We are go­ing to be build­ing our team to en­able that to hap­pen and also to bol­ster our board to make sure we are ready to be pub­lic when the time comes.

“But re­ally, we have run this com­pany as if it was a pub­lic com­pany, tried to be very re­spon­si­ble.

“We now feel very con­fi­dent that we could move for­ward to a list­ing at an ap­pro­pri­ate time.”

Cor­nish Lithium is work­ing on the project with Geo­ther­mal En­gi­neer­ing Lim­ited, which is de­vel­op­ing a geo­ther­mal power plant in Corn­wall.

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