French minerals company Imerys and miner British Lithium have launched a UK lithium venture. The companies plan to extract enough lithium for 500,000 vehicles by the end of the decade with financial support from the UK Government.  

The venture will source lithium carbonate from an open-pit granite mine in Cornwall in the south-west of the UK. Production is due to begin in 2028. 

“This venture will reduce the UK’s and Europe’s dependence on critical raw materials imports, thus contributing to the achievement of the European and British climate change targets,” the companies said in a statement

British Lithium began drilling and exploration on Imerys land in 2017, for which it was granted financial support from the UK’s national innovation agency and the Automotive Transformation Fund.  

Imerys estimates that 161 million tonnes of inferred mineral resources are located in the area at a grade of 0.54% lithium oxide. It predicts that production rates would supply around two-thirds of the UK’s estimated battery demand by 2030. Imerys believes that the venture will make it the largest supplier of lithium in Europe. 

The UK Government has set a target to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars by 2030 and only sell entirely zero-emissions vehicles from 2035. Lithium demand is predicted to grow more than 40 times by 2040 in line with net-zero targets, according to the International Energy Agency

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The UK Government’s critical mineral strategy seeks to maximise domestic production to ensure future security of supply. 

The collapse of UK battery start-up Britishvolt earlier this year raised concerns about the UK automotive supply chain. Australia-based Recharge Industries will continue construction of Britishvolt’s planned gigafactory in the north of England. 

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The rules state that 45% of the value of an electric vehicle should originate in the EU or UK to qualify for trade without a 10% tariff being applied.