First lithium carbonate produced in the UK
British Lithium says this is the first lithium to be produced from mica, mined from granite at a pilot plant near Roche in Cornwall.
Other companies such as Cornish Lithium are looking to extract lithium from mineral rich water while Vulcan Energy Resources is planning to produce lithium hydroxide from brine in Germany from 2026 to supply Volkswagen’s battery gigafactories. Th EU has also signed a supply deal for lithium from Ukraine, which is currently politically unstable.
The pilot plant in Cornwall has taken just seven months to design and build and uses patented technology in a sustainable production process.
The pilot plant design is based on four years’ intensive research and development and is the latest milestone in British Lithium’s progress towards full operational status. The plant incorporates all processing stages – from quarrying through to high purity lithium carbonate production. This includes crushing, grinding and beneficiating the ore, custom-built electric calcination at low temperatures, acid-free leaching and multiple purification steps that include ion-exchange.
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“New processes are normally piloted during the definitive feasibility stage but, as lithium has never been produced commercially from mica before, de-risking our proprietary technology is an important step in developing our project,” said Chief Executive Andrew Smith.
“Doing it now allows us to operate in real world conditions using actual site water and locally sourced commercial reagents. We’re delighted with the rapid progress we’ve made, but there’s still a long road ahead in terms of refining and optimising the process.”
The company plans to produce 5kg of lithium carbonate per day from early this year to demonstrate its commercial value to customers. Once the process is fully developed, work will begin on building a full-scale plant.
“Our goal is to produce 21,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate each year,” said British Lithium chair Roderick Smith. “At the moment, we will be the only lithium producer in the world to be quarrying and refining on one site, which adds to the sustainability of the project.
“The support we’ve had from Innovate UK, government departments, Cornwall Council and a range of key stakeholders has been vital, and we look forward to considerably ramping up our operations over the next two or three years.”
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