12 Jul Cornish lithium miner goes digging for crowdfunding
The South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall
A mining start-up has turned to crowdfunding to finance its hunt for lithium in Cornwall, where it hopes to develop a UK supply of metals for electric car batteries.
Cornish Lithium wants to raise £1m on the Crowdcube platform to support further drilling for subterranean hot-water brines, from which it hopes to extract lithium. It is also investigating hard-rock lithium deposits in the county.
It would be one of the first companies of its type to resort to crowdfunding, earning pledges of cash from multiple investors.
Jeremy Wrathall, co-founder and chief executive, said the company had been inundated with expressions of interest from potential investors since it was founded in 2017.
“We had so many people writing in to invest that we had to find a way to enfranchise the local community,” he said. “We’re hoping to raise £1m but we would take over-subscriptions if they are there.”
The company marries modern-day scanning technology with historic records to pinpoint the most promising locations for drilling.
Cornwall has a long history of mining, with many former copper and tin works abandoned because of rising hot water. Mr Wrathall believes these same brines could be valuable for the lithium they contain, which will be extracted through pipes and then processed above ground.
Production of lithium in Cornwall could be at least five years away and Mr Wrathall said the company would consider a stock market listing in the next three years.
“We know that lithium is there from historical records. This is a real opportunity to look into this in more detail,” he said.
The company is also exploring cobalt deposits in the area – another metal in high demand by car makers.
The race to develop electric cars has forced manufacturers to lock in supply of key metals needed for batteries. Earlier this month Jaguar Land Rover announced plans to invest millions in building new electric cars in the UK.
Mr Wrathall said British car makers should welcome the possibility of securing supply close to home, reducing reliance on imports from countries such as China and Australia. “The drive towards security of supply by western governments is becoming an increasing theme. Countries need to look on their doorsteps,” he added.
In hot countries lithium is typically extracted from brine by using the sun to evaporate the water and then recovering the salts. This is less of an option in Cornwall, so Cornish Lithium says it will look to licence technology to extract the metal in an environmentally friendly way.
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