UK explorer Cornish Lithium has obtained financing from the UK’s national innovation agency to support the construction of a demonstration-scale processing plant at the Trelavour hard rock lithium project.

The funding was received from Innovate UK through the Automotive Transformation Fund’s (ATF) Scale up Readiness Validation competition (SuRV).

Cornish Lithium plans to use this capital to build the hydrometallurgical section of a processing plant, which will comprise concentration and hydrometallurgical processing steps. 

The facility is planned to be built at the Trelith Processing Site associated with the Trelavour hard rock lithium project near St Austell, according to a release posted on abmec.org.uk.

Cornish Lithium CEO and founder Jeremy Wrathall said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this ATF grant as it will accelerate our progress towards the commercial production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide in the UK.

“We believe that a secure, sustainable domestic supply of lithium is essential for the development of a resilient electric vehicle supply chain for the British automotive industry.

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“The award of this grant provides further validation of the Trelavour Project’s potential, following our major institutional shareholder, TechMet, electing to exercise its option to invest a further £9m after its review of our scoping study.”

Wrathall said the firm will use ATF funds, along with funds from the TechMet option exercise, to construct the demonstration plant.

This plant will produce commercial samples of lithium hydroxide, which will be assessed by end users such as battery producers and automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). 

It will also be equipped to produce samples of by-products such as gypsum, caesium, sulphate of potash, and rubidium sulphate alum.

Cornish Lithium has completed detailed metallurgical testing of these processes at a pilot scale and intends to build a demonstration-scale plant to validate the technology’s commercial viability.

The firm expects the demonstration plant to form a critical input to its feasibility study to build a commercial lithium extraction plant in Cornwall to produce lithium hydroxide.