Cornish Lithium raises $6.2m to support UK project

United Downs is Cornish Lithium’s flagship exploration site for lithium-enriched geothermal waters. (Image courtesy of Cornish Lithium.)

British start-up Cornish Lithium has raised £5.1 million (about $6.2m) through a crowdfunding campaign, one of the largest of its kind any company has undertaken in the UK this year.

The amount collected also makes the campaign the largest on Crowdcube by a B2B business in 2023, according to the company.

Cornish said that existing shareholders received priority access to the financing round with Crowdcube, investing a milestone £1 million ($1.2m) in just 27 minutes.

The crowdfunding was launched in early September to provide Cornish Lithium’s existing shareholders, as well as new retail shareholders, the opportunity to invest alongside the $67 million granted by the UK Infrastructure Bank, the Energy and Minerals Group and TechMet.

The investment package, together with the funds raised through the crowdfunding, will enable Cornish to progress its hard rock lithium Trelavour project to a construction-ready status. It will also help completing the engineering design work required to build a demonstration-scale geothermal waters extraction facility.

The company plans to extract lithium from hard rock in a repurposed clay pit at Cornwall, southwest England.  Its intention is to produce about 8,000 tonnes per year of battery-grade lithium hydroxide.

The Trelavour hard rock lithium project comprises an open pit mine of lithium enriched granite and processing facilities that will yield concentrate of lithium-bearing mica. Lithium hydroxide will then be produced from the mica concentrate at an industrial site near the mine.

According to a scoping study, financed with help from the UK’s Automotive Transformation Fund and the Advanced Propulsion Centre, the Trelavour mine would produce 25 million tonnes per annum.

Operational life is pegged at 20 years, during which it would generate an average of 7,800 tonnes of lithium hydroxide a year.

Securing domestic lithium sources

Cornish Lithium had hoped to begin production by 2026, which would have allowed it to take advantage of the European Union’s current push to rebuild its automotive supply chains around battery metals and foster the adoption of EVs.

Another company is also eying Cornwall for its battery metals ambitions. British Lithium teamed up with France’s Imerys (FRA: IY4) in June to start a mine able to produce enough lithium to power 500,000 EVs a year by the end of the decade.

The UK doesn’t have lithium operations, which means all its needs are met by supply from the world’s top producers of the metal — Australia and Chile. 

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic has said that by 2025, large-scale battery plants currently under construction will produce cells to power at least six million EVs.

British carmakers have additional pressure, as the government has vowed to stop the sale of new diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2035.