Cornwall is set to become the leading lithium hub in the UK thanks to a new venture between two companies.
British Lithium and mineral processing company Imerys have announced they are joining forces to create the UK’s first integrated producer of battery-grade lithium.
There is a target production of 20,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent per year - that's enough for around 500,000 electric cars per year, by the end of the decade. This meets roughly two-thirds of Britain’s estimated battery demand by 2030.
The Government plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030 in favour of electric vehicles, which rely on lithium to fuel their batteries. The company says it's focused on sustainable, chemical-free, processing from the mica in Cornish granite.
The project is set to generate new job opportunities and foster economic growth in Cornwall. Today, Imerys employs 1,100 people across the UK, of which 830 are located in Cornwall, including five open-pit mine sites in Cornwall and Devon.
The transaction will bring together Imerys’ expertise in mining, infrastructure in Cornwall, as well as its lithium mineral resources, with British Lithium’s technology and lithium pilot plant, which recently produced battery-grade lithium carbonate.
Since 2017, British Lithium has carried out drilling and exploration on Imerys-owned land in Cornwall and developed a unique process and pilot plant to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate. It received financial support from Innovate UK, UK's national innovation agency, and the Automotive Transformation Fund.
The British Lithium team says it is continuing to ramp up from pilot-scale operations towards full-scale production.
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said: “This joint venture between Imerys and British Lithium will strengthen our domestic supply of critical minerals, which is vitally important as we seek to grow the UK's advanced manufacturing industry and help create the jobs of the future.
This partnership shows again that the UK remains an attractive destination for international investment and will boost economic prosperity, support green industries, and bolster our energy security – not only in Cornwall, but right across the UK.”
Roderick Smith, Chairman of British Lithium, said: "After working closely with Imerys several years, the Directors, shareholders, and staff of British Lithium are delighted to formalize their partnership with Imerys and are confident that this alignment of interests will propel us toward continued rapid progress.
"This marks a key milestone for British Lithium, Imerys, and the entire lithium battery industry, as they embark on a journey to establish a sustainable future for lithium production in the United Kingdom."