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Cornish Lithium gets $1.7 million funding boost for UK project

Cornwall’s mining heritage dates back to the Bronze Age, when it was discovered that incorporating small amounts of tin into copper made it easier to work than pure copper. (Image courtesy of Cornish Lithium.)

Cornish Lithium, a start-up hoping to lead the development of an industry for the battery metal in the UK, has raised £1.4 million (about $1.7m) through a crowdfunding campaign launched in July, which will allow it to expand its ongoing drilling work in the ancient mining region of Cornwall, south-west England.

The company, the first British miner to raise money for a project through an Internet-based platform, said the backers included Norwegian shipping magnate Peter Smedvig, senior mining executives and about 1,200 individual investors, mostly locals.

Cornish Lithium owns exploration rights across more than 300 square miles of Cornwall, where it’s using data collected by planes, drones and satellites to map out mineral-rich geological structures in the area.

In the next exploration phase, to start in October, Cornish Lithium will also look for lithium in hard rock form, having discovered evidence that it was mined on the surface during World War II.

The company will conduct its first drill test in October, which consist of perforating geothermal faults, pumping out water and then filtering the output to extract lithium, a key ingredient in the batteries that power electric cars and high-tech devices.

In the upcoming exploration phase, Cornish Lithium has decided to also begin exploring for lithium in hard rock form, having discovered evidence that it was mined on the surface during World War II.

Additionally, the miner plans to explore for other metals used in car batteries such as cobalt and copper.

A year ago, the company said it needed about £5 million ($6.3m) to go ahead with its plans. Since then, it has secured £2m from private backers and it’s already aiming at listing on the London Stock Exchange within three years. 

Cornish Lithium has also expanded and consolidated the areas over which it has rights to explore for lithium and other minerals. Its team has assembled a vast amount of historical data and reconstructed it in 3D digital format, enabling a totally new understanding of the geological potential of Cornwall’s mineral deposits.

Jeremy Wrathall, the company’s boss and former head of mining research at Investec Plc, has repeatedly said he believed his company has undertaken the largest, single unified exploration project in the history of the UK.

Most lithium is produced in South America, Australia and China, but the UK government has recently designated it as a metal of strategic importance to the country.

“The Government is concerned about the raw materials supply for the car industry,” Wrathall told This Is Money over the weekend. “Brexit highlights the need to create new industries in the UK, and one that supports our car industry.”

Wrathall believes that the lack of exploration in Cornwal for over 30 years means that one of the most highly mineralized areas in Europe has remained untouched by modern exploration techniques.