24 Jan Miners to drill for lithium
A company especially set up to spearhead a new lithium production industry in Cornwall announced plans last week to explore the mineral to supply the burgeoning market for electric cars.
Cornish Lithium hopes to tap into a mineral rich in the south west and found in underground hot spring brines. Exploration will cost an estimated £5m and investors are being sought.
The project has been hyped in the press as a potential £50bn mining revolution in the heart of Poldark country.
Known as ‘white petroleum’, most lithium is produced in South America, Australia and China. But there are vast quantities locked inside the west country soil.
And Cornwall Lithium wants to explore an area of about 300 square kilometres around the mining areas of Camborne, Redruth and St Day.
The area over which Cornish Lithium has obtained rights represents the largest unified exploration programme Cornwall has ever seen.
Mining teams aim to drill boreholes at least 400 metres deep to access “brines” carrying lithium-rich hot water.
Numerous historical records show lithium in underground hot springs in Cornwall and its presence in the county has been known since the mid-1800s.
For many years it was regarded as a curiosity, given there was no developed market for the metalat that time.
However, new technology offers the potential to extract lithium to supply products to the rapidly growing battery market for electric cars, laptops and mobile phones.
Chief executive Jeremy Wrathall said the recent advances in extraction processes made the time right to exploit lithium’s commercial potential.
“The Cornish operation would be more akin to oil drilling than mining”, he said. “The Cornish operation is best positioned to benefit from the upcoming surge in lithium prices.”
Cornish Lithium has agreed with various holders of mineral rights to explore for, and to commercially develop, lithium bearing brines throughout areas seen as “highly prospective”.
“With demand for lithium expected to increase rapidly through its use in modern technologies, the UK government has highlighted lithium as a metal of importance to UK industry.
“Wrathall has over 25 years of experience in the field of mining finance, graduating from the Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall.
He spent three years working as a mining engineer in the South African gold mining industry and then pursued mining investment banking in London.
Legal firm Stephens Scown concluded a mining deal, with consultant Sally Norcross Webb acting for Strongbow Exploration in its deal with Cornish Lithium.
Under the exploration and option deed, Cornish Lithium can take 99-year mining leases of development sites, said Norcross Webb.
“This is such an exciting opportunity for the creation of a new industry in which Cornwall could become a leading supplier of lithium in Europe.
“There is a rapidly increasing global demand for lithium for use in lithium-ion batteries for electric cars.
“Cornish Lithium also signed a similar deal with Cornwall based company Mineral Exploration (Minex), which holds mineral rights in Cornwall and elsewhere.