Cornish Lithium geothermal water test site ready

The company has been sampling deep geothermal waters. (Image courtesy of Cornish Lithium.)

Cornish Lithium, a British miner eager to lead the development of an industry for the battery metal in the UK, said on Monday it had finished building its United Downs geothermal water test site and demonstration plant, which will be used to trial direct lithium extraction (DLE) process technologies.

The facility aims to establish what DLE technologies are most suited to low-carbon extraction of lithium from geothermal waters off the coast of Cornwall, Cornish said.

The company is simultaneously working to optimize the extraction of lithium from mica minerals, in collaboration with Grinding Solutions.

Cornish Lithium has also made significant progress towards defining its first estimate of how much lithium is in hard rock at the Trelavour Project, and determining its quality.

A second hard rock drilling campaign is now complete and this will enable the company to publish its maiden resource to define the project’s potential scale in the fall.

Cornish chief executive officer and founder Jeremy Wrathall said results obtained at the test site will be used to make a decision on the development of a larger pilot plant the company intends on constructing by the end of March 2022.

Cornish Lithium is building a pioneering pilot lithium extraction plant in collaboration with Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL). (Image courtesy of Cornish Lithium.)

“As world leaders gather in Cornwall for the G7 summit to take collective action towards securing a green and global economic recovery, and with the news that Nissan is considering constructing a battery gigafactory in the North East, the timing could not be better for Cornish Lithium,” Wrathall said in the statement.

Car giant Nissan is said to be in advanced negotiations with the UK government to build a huge electric car battery plant, in line with an official push to make Britain the company’s largest electric vehicles (EVs) production hub outside Japan.

In only three years, British carmakers will have to source local electric car batteries as set by the Brexit free trade deal inked in 2020.

Under the agreement, all European trade in cars and parts will continue to be free of tariffs or quotas after the Brexit transition period ended on December 31, as long as they contain enough content from either UK or EU factories.

Batteries will at first be allowed to have up to 70% of materials from countries outside the EU. From 2024 onwards, that requirement will tighten to 50%.

EU push

The EU is constructing large-scale battery cell factories. European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic has said that by 2025, the planned facilities would produce cells to power at last six million electric vehicles.

In September 2019, the UK government launched the Faraday Battery Challenge as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), to spur research and innovation.

Consortium Li4UK (Securing a Domestic Lithium Supply Chain for the UK), which includes Cornish Lithium, was one of the projects to secure financial backing from the pioneering program. It produced its first battery-grade lithium carbonate in January this year.