Imerys British Lithium Pilot Plant, Cornwall

In 2021, despite Covid restrictions we successfully designed, built and commissioned the world’s first end-to-end lithium pilot plant treating the lithium mica granites that are extensive in Cornwall, beneficiating the mica and producing high-purity, battery-grade lithium carbonate.

The plant has already produced 99.9% Li2CO3, verified by an independent laboratory. The large-scale, 25,000ft2 Imerys British Lithium Pilot Plant, now provides a unique and invaluable tool to further advance, optimise and prove our patent pending technology.

The overall objective of our work in 2021 was to design, build and operate a pilot (demonstration) plant to refine and demonstrate our novel technology for the sustainable extraction of lithium from micaceous granite, eliminate scale-up risk, demonstrate environmental performance, and produce representative product for testing and validation by our identified customers.

The plant has operated throughout 2022 and continues to be an important testbed as we optimise and refine our unique technology.

It is unusual for a project developer to build and operate its own pilot plant relatively early in the project evaluation and development, however the metallurgical processes are complex and successful development, commissioning and ramp-up will depend on a high level of process validation. We anticipate operating the pilot plant throughout the coming feasibility stages, and full-scale project construction, providing important process design criteria, and allowing the planned workforce of 350 to train on the actual process.

Specific aims and objectives which have been achieved were to:

  • Complete confirmatory metallurgical testwork to assist design of the pilot plant.
  • Design, procure, deliver, and install the pilot plant to treat Cornish granite and produce battery-grade lithium carbonate in real-world conditions
  • Operate, modify, and advance the metallurgical process at pilot scale.
  • Determine Process Design Criteria for a full-scale plant, including metallurgical recovery, waste streams, energy, and reagent consumption, and eliminate scale-up risk
  • Collect process waste streams to enable assessment of any potential environmental impact and mitigation
  • Use independent consultants to benchmark our technology against the current lithium supply chain’s key ESG factors, including energy intensity, CO2 emissions and water usage.
  • Produce lithium carbonate samples for customer certification.
  • Demonstrate the economic feasibility of the full-scale development
  • Demonstrate our technology at COP26
  • Lower the risks of developing an integrated mine-to-EV supply chain in the UK by increasing cost competitiveness, and strategic advantages, and lower carbon footprint by shortening the supply chain
  • Enhance the benefit and value of the UK’s natural resources by proving the technologies for extracting lithium from the UK’s extensive unused granite resources
  • Accelerate the shift to low-carbon transport by facilitating a sustainable lithium-battery supply chain and EV manufacturing