A 13-tonne bulk sample of hard rock being analysed by British Lithium’s team at its Cornwall-based metallurgical laboratory is showing better than expected results.
The company aims to extract lithium carbonate from the mica in granite, and analysis of the sample represents the latest stage in progressing towards full-scale production in three-to-five years’ time.
The sample was excavated by British Lithium Limited geologists at the location near St Austell where the company has been drilling over the last two years.
Initial testing was undertaken by locally-based mining consultancy Wardell Armstrong and more detailed work is now taking place in the company’s laboratory.
“The results are indicating a higher grade of lithium than anticipated which is very exciting,” said British Lithium’s chief executive Andrew Smith.
“No other company in the world is currently producing lithium from mica and, given the increasing demand for batteries as the UK moves towards more sustainable technology, the work we are doing promises to have a significant impact on the local and national economy.”
British Lithium has recently been awarded an Innovate UK Smart Grant to help fund the analysis.
“Our tests are suggesting a potential yield of 21,000 tonnes of battery-quality lithium carbonate a year, which represents about one third of what the UK would need for its electric revolution by 2030,” said British Lithium chairman Roderick Smith.
“Our preference is to use the strategic advantage of a UK supply of lithium to attract a battery plant to Britain as a customer, however fast-growing demand from Europe could also be met from the UK. The ultimate aim is to set up a lithium refinery that would supply lithium carbonate to the local automotive industry.”
Exawatt, a UK-based strategic and research consultancy, predicts that fully electric vehicles powered solely by batteries will dominate UK vehicle sales by the end of the decade.
“At the end of 2020, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that sales of new cars and vans powered wholly by petrol or diesel vehicles would be phased out by 2030 in the UK,” said Exawatt CEO Simon Price.