Cornwall lithium mine projects may have to export the metal abroad if there is no domestic EV battery infrastructure, says company founder
Lithium mined in Cornwall may have to be exported abroad if there is no battery-producing infrastructure within the UK for utilising it, a mining company founder has said.
“But in terms of what we’re doing with Cornish Lithium, we’ll export it if there’s no automotive industry here,” Wrathall said, adding, “It would be a tragedy.”
The metal’s value is expected to spiral with increased demand for the batteries that power electric cars.
The UK alone is expected to require about 80,000 tonnes of lithium a year by 2030.
Cornish Lithium in 2020 found significant levels of the metal in hot springs underground near Redruth and has also been drilling for it in hard rock at a disused china clay pit near St Austell.
The firm aims to start production by 2026 and believes it can extract about 10,000 tonnes of lithium each year.
Competitor British Lithium is looking to mine the metal from an open pit in St Austell.
But there is only one large-scale battery plant in the UK, the Chinese-owned Envision plant in Sunderland, with the same firm looking to build a second.
It is being taken over by Australian firm Recharge Industries, which is initially planning to cater to the defence and power storage industries and not EVs.
Steve Double, the Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, said there also remained plenty of “challenges” to build up lithium production in Cornwall, due to “the global economic situation”.
Local climate activist Nichola Andersen said even if the mining projects get off the ground she was “very suspicious” that the companies involved would simply “feather their own nest”.
“It’s just another example of people extracting value out of Cornwall. The money goes out of Cornwall and never comes back,” she told the BBC.
Cornish Lithium has received government funding including £2.9 million toward its pilot Redruth plant.
The government said its Critical Minerals Strategy shows how it is supporting lithium projects and battery manufacturing.
“From the tip of Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands, we are creating the right conditions for critical mineral businesses to grow by offering financial support,” the government said.