Benchmarking sustainability

Research by British Lithium Limited (RBLL) recently completed a benchmarking process to assess how our environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance will compare with current lithium mineral and brine producers in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, USA and Zimbabwe.

This work was an important part of the £2.9 million Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Phase 2 grant awarded to RBLL by Innovate UK. The growing focus on ESG issues by government, industry, civil society and investors reflects the need to ensure the minerals and metals necessary for transition to a low-carbon economy are themselves produced in a responsible and low impact fashion.

Undertaken in 2021-2022 by an independent expert, the benchmark applied a robust and transparent approach to compare forecast energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and water consumption and recycling with the performance of current producers. It also considered the quality of the planning and permitting process for mines in the UK and how social and governance risks are regulated relative to other producing countries.

Forecast energy intensity for our project is marginally less than the weighted average for existing mineral producers, while GHG emissions per tonne of product will be significantly less than all the current mineral producers. In part this reflects the virtual elimination of coal and the rising role of zero carbon renewable energy sources in the grid electricity consumed by the project and in part on our efforts to target lower energy consumption and GHG emissions in the project design.

Based on this analysis, Imerys British Lithium will be a global leader in terms of GHG emissions amongst lithium mineral producers. We are considering a number of potential additional management measures to reduce energy consumption and GHG emission intensity, which will be assessed in further detail during future pre-feasibility and feasibility studies.

Forecast water consumption intensity for the project is significantly less than all current mineral and brine producers and our project will be a global leader in terms of minimising water consumption per tonne of product.

The clear legal framework in the UK, alongside a transparent process for planning and permitting, presents a solid foundation for development of a mining project. The benchmark demonstrates that developing a mine in the UK does not present risks that might be associated with projects in countries with more limited government controls or that face known issues with bribery and corruption, child and forced labour, human rights abuses or conflict and instability.

Based on the detailed benchmark analysis, a mine developed in the UK will have lower environmental, social and governance risks than any of the current producing countries.

As the project progresses, we will assess opportunities to further enhance our environmental, social and governance performance through optimisation of design, construction, operation and closure activities.