WORLD / EUROPE
Electric car lithium demand powers mining revival in UK
Published: Jul 18, 2021 06:29 PM
Pedestrian and vehicles are seen on Westminster Bridge in London, Britain, on Dec. 23, 2020. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Wednesday announced that more areas of the East and South East of England will be put into Tier Four restrictions, the highest level, while revealing that two cases of another new variant of the novel coronavirus have been identified in Britain. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

Pedestrian and vehicles are seen on Westminster Bridge in London, Britain, on Dec. 23, 2020. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Wednesday announced that more areas of the East and South East of England will be put into Tier Four restrictions, the highest level, while revealing that two cases of another new variant of the novel coronavirus have been identified in Britain. (Xinhua/Han Yan)


As the global auto sector accelerates production of electric cars, one British company is hoping to cash in from mining lithium needed to make rechargeable batteries that power the vehicles.

It is five years since former investment banker Jeremy Wrathall launched Cornish Lithium, a company operating in Cornwall, southwest England, which recently hosted the G7 summit.

And while it may be another four years until it begins commercial production of the metal, Wrathall is optimistic that his punt will pay dividends.

"In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand and I started to think about lithium," he told AFP in an interview.

"A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall and I just wondered if that was a sort of an unrecognized thing in the UK."

In fact lithium was discovered in Cornwall in 1864, while the area is known for its historic copper and tin mining, which dates back 4,000 years and ended at the turn of the century.

"Of course I would like to revive mining in Cornwall but this a commercial project," insisted Wrathall.

"It's not a mission that drives me to the point to be emotional or romantic."

Cornish Lithium is at a testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially.

"Initial results are encouraging. I'm excited about it," Wrathall said, whose company has revived a former mine situated away from the area's picturesque villages and beaches.

The mining firm is looking to extract enough lithium from hot water underground to meet at least a "significant proportion" of UK demand, while at the same time respecting the environment.

It is mulling the capture of heat from underground to generate clean power, or geothermal energy, that can be used to extract the lithium.

Wrathall explained that Cornwall benefited from having very clean water.

AFP


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