19 Jan UK exploration start-up looks to tap Cornish lithium brines
Cornish Lithium. a new company set up by a former mining analyst, is hoping to capitalise on both booming demand for lithium and the Poldark effect on investor enthusiasm for reviving mining in the UK’s remote southwest tip.
A newly formed private company has secured the rights to explore for lithium brines in Cornwall, home of the UK’s historic tin mining industry, in preparation for what could be the UK’s first and only commercial lithium exploration project.
Set up by a former mining analyst, Cornish Lithium announced today, 19 January that it has signed definitive agreements with TSX-V-listed Strongbow Exploration Inc., which is looking to revive the past-producing South Crofty tin mine near the Garnish town of Camborne, and landowners Tregothnan Estates to evaluate the potential for lithium bone extraction in west Cornwall.
Jeremy Wrathall, Cornish Lithium’s CEO, who previously led mining research for banks including Investec, UBS and Deutsche Bank, said that he first learned of the presence of lithium in subsurface brines and micas in Cornish rocks several years ago from an industry colleague who worked at South Crofty.
“It was only when I saw what was going on in the lithium market and the phenomenal growth in demand being driven by the electric vehicle industry that it came back to me what he’d said,” Wrathall told IM.
Having graduated from the Camborne School of mines in the 1980s Wrathall is familiar with Cornwall’s long mining history. The area between Camborne, Redruth and Truro was once at the centre of the global tin industry but Wrathall says that the Cornish Lithium’s project could be even bigger.
“The area over which Cornish Lithium has obtained rights will facilitate what is expected to be the largest unified exploration programme Cornwall has ever seen.” he said.
There is evidence to suggest that the lithium grades in Cornish brines run at around 130 parts per million (ppm), although further analysis will need to be conducted to establish how concentrated and recoverable the mineral is.
Wrathall insists that the project can be conducted without the need for large brine evaporation ponds, such as those used for brine-based lithium production in the world’s largest producing country, Chile.
“There have been advances in technology that allow you to do away with the big ponds,” Wrathall explained. “What we are planning will be just like drilling a geothermal water well.”
Like Nevada only better?
According to Wrathall, the operation envisaged by Cornish Lithium is “exactly analogous” to the Clayton Valley lithium brine project in Nevada, US, which is being developed by TSX-V-listed Pure Energy Minerals Ltd – touted as being the world’s first “invisible” lithium mine using technology made by Israel’s Tenova Bateman Technologies.