If countries worldwide want to meet their fossil fuel reduction goals, they’ll need to rely on one critical metal: lithium. Its light weight and high charge density make it the perfect metal for electric car batteries – as well as for batteries used in modern technologies like smartphones and pacemakers – which means it’ll be essential for our sustainable future. And Cornwall has an opportunity to supply a significant portion of the UK’s demand.
The region is underlain by a mass of lithium-enriched granite rock that stretches from Dartmoor to Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly, making Cornwall one of the most prospective spots in the world for lithium mining. And companies like Cornish Lithium are ensuring the metal is extracted using sustainable, environmentally conscious practices.
Cornish Lithium is an early-stage lithium exploration company that’s utilising environmentally conscious technologies to extract lithium from Cornwall’s resources.
One of Cornish Lithium’s main projects is at United Downs, a historic mining site 8km east of South Crofty mine, and part of a densely populated mining district known as Gwennap. The Company has identified lithium within geothermal waters that have circulated at depths of over a kilometer beneath the surface through geological faults in Cornwall for thousands of years. As the water has circulated, it’s slowly leached lithium from the granite rock and become enriched with the mineral.
Cornish Lithium has drilled exploratory boreholes beneath the United Downs site to pump the lithium-enriched geothermal water to the surface and test for its lithium content. Its results indicate that Cornwall is home to some of the highest grades of lithium within geothermal waters in the world. Now, the company is working with technology providers to find the most low carbon and environmentally-responsible way to extract the lithium commercially.
Traditionally, lithium mining is environmentally costly – it’s sourced from hard rock mines in countries like Australia, using huge quantities of fossil fuels during its processing and producing a lot of waste. But Cornish Lithium is creating a sustainable alternative for the mining industry.
“Something that’s really important to our exploration programme is trying to extract lithium as responsibly as possible,” says Lucy Crane, Senior Geologist and Business Developer at Cornish Lithium. “Using Direct Lithium Extraction technology, we can selectively remove the lithium compounds in the water and re-inject everything else back down. Compared to a traditional mine, there’s very little waste associated with the process.”
The Company is even working with the United Downs Deep Geothermal Project to help power the future processing plant. “The waters we’re extracting have natural heat energy, so we’re working with the geothermal power plant to use that energy throughout the lithium extraction process,” says Lucy. “Ultimately, it’s helping us reach our goal of creating a net-zero carbon way of producing lithium.”
With such a rich source of lithium running below the region, and a tightly connected mining sector, there’s no better place than Cornwall to extract the metal.
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