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May 14, 2021

British Lithium applies for a patent with extraction invention

Cornwall-based company British Lithium has invented and filed for patent a low-energy, chemical-free process, Mi-Sep, for physically separating the mica in granite that contains lithium.

By Yoana Cholteeva

The mineral has seen demand increase for its use in numerous battery technologies including laptops, electric vehicles (EVs), and grid storage.

Innovate UK, a non-departmental public body working with the government has funded part of the necessary research and development work and Innovate UK Edge,  growth and scale support company, has provided the legal expertise required to file a patent application at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

British Lithium achieved that milestone following three years of research and development and after it became the first company to discover a sizable lithium deposit in the UK, the first to develop a novel process for extracting lithium in a sustainable manner, and the first to show battery-grade lithium can be produced from Cornish granite.

British Lithium CEO Andrew Smith said: “We’re delighted that our first patent is now pending and are very grateful to the UK government for their continued support and funding, which has been pivotal to our work.

“Our Mi-Sep process for extracting and concentrating lithium-mica from Cornish granite reduces the mass requiring subsequent treatment by 80%, without the use of chemicals, and is therefore significantly more sustainable than other existing methods.  We have a number of breakthrough technologies for extracting lithium from mica and anticipate further patent applications in the near future.”

The company has identified a resource of over 100 million tonnes in a former china clay mine near St Austell, Cornwall, which is enough to support a projected annual production of 20,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate. The deposit could also meet one-third of Britain’s likely demand by 2030 when all UK car manufacture converts to EVs.

“Our aim has always been to develop lithium production with the lowest environmental footprint possible and that’s why the new technology we are patenting is powered by renewable energy,” Smith added.

British Lithium is also building a £3m pilot plant nearby Roche, Cornwall, on the southwestern tip of England, for the production of battery-grade lithium, with the plant expected to be operational in early 2022.

British Lithium believes that an entire infrastructure of businesses and skills providers will need to get ready for the start of a lithium rush as Cornwall would need major investments in both people and infrastructure projects if it is to fully exploit the economic benefits of its deposits.

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