Today the world’s lithium comes primarily from two areas: the so-called “lithium triangle” in South America (Argentina, Chile, Bolivia), where lithium is extracted from brine, and Western Australia, where it is extracted from hard rocks, primarily spodumene.
Each technology has its challenges; the brine production route in South America uses significant amounts of water in a particularly arid region, which limits how much can be extracted sustainably. In Western Australia, mining methods are diesel-intensive due to the remoteness of mine locations and the lack of available on-site renewable energy, plus relatively high stripping ratios. After concentration, the lithium-bearing material is sent to China where it is processed by cathode active material (CAM) producers and ultimately into lithium ion batteries. The downside of this is that energy used in China is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and the supply chain from South America / Western Australia to China and then to Europe is among the longest on the plant.
The EU has implemented legislation that requires more than 50%, and up to 70%, of an electric vehicle to originate from the UK or EU to avoid trade tariffs and to improve the carbon footprint of the electric vehicle supply chain. It is essential to develop local critical raw materials to support this, which have been designed to have the minimum impact on the environment.
Imerys British Lithium, with the help of the UK Government, has developed an innovative best-in-class sustainable technology to economically extract lithium from Cornish granites. At Imerys British Lithium, we believe our lithium project can have the best environmental performance of any lithium producer in the world, because:
- Our project is based on a brownfield site that needs remediating; when completed the project site will be returned to a far better condition than it is today.
- Recent development of electric- and hydrogen-based mobile plant will allow for off-peak charging and emission-free mining.
- We have co-located our mine and refinery to minimise haulage distances.
- The ore body is right at the surface, resulting in a significantly lower stripping ratio than other hard rock deposits.
- Beneficiation by our patent-pending physical process gives higher recovery than other methods without the use of any chemicals.
- Our process uses a single calcine at significantly lower temperatures than required for spodumene-based processes, and research is being completed to do this using green energy.
- Our leach will take place at neutral pH without the need for a second roast, or the creation of acidic waste products.
- Our principal reagent will be recycled using our patented technology.
- We will use sustainable, local solar- and wind-generated green electricity.
- Production in the UK avoids the long supply chain from China, Australia or South America.
Imerys British Lithium subscribes to IFC’s Sustainability Framework and is committed to sustainable development and risk management. The Sustainability Framework comprises IFC’s Policy and Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability
Better Environmental Performance
British Lithium believes our lithium project can have the best environmental performance of any lithium producer in the world as:
Only Mine to Refinery
The only mine direct feeding a concentrator and refinery on one site, reducing haulage and carbon emissions
Superior Strip Ratio
Thick ore body seems leads to far lower strip ratio than other hard rock deposits means less waste materials needs to be excavated, hauled and impounded.
Higher recovery without chemicals
Beneficiation using electrostatic gives higher recovery than floatation and without use of chemicals.
Lower Roast Temperature
<650oC for lower energy consumption; a single roast at a significantly lower temperature that spodumene roasts.
So no acid disposal; our leach will take place at neutral pH without the need for a second roast.
Existing Workforce Housing
By accommodating workforce in local housing the large commuting and logistics requirements of remote mines is avoided.
we will maximise the use of wind and solar power and use existing sustainable electricity providers from the existing grid.
recent development of electric haul trucks and excavators would allow for off-peak charging and emission free mining.