In what it claims as a “world-first”, UK-based metallurgy lab British Lithium has created lithium batteries made from granite, producing the metallic element in an ethical and eco-friendly way.
The UK will require all new cars to be electric by 2030, and lithium carbonate is a key component in EV batteries. This recent breakthrough will help pave the way for a local supply chain.
Most EV batteries are made from lithium. While relatively safe for the landfills, the physical mining of lithium and the production of lithium-ion are incredibly labour-intensive, with a majority of it not being recycled, causing the impacts on the environment to be costly. In addition, the cobalt needed to make them is mined using child labour in some cases.
Funded by government-backed organisation Innovate UK, the pilot plant located in Roche in Cornwall, England, was designed based on four years of intensive research, took seven months to build, and uses patented technology for sustainable production.
According to the company, the plant incorporates all processing stages, from quarrying through high purity lithium carbonate production, but using mica from granite instead of cobalt.
“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 Andrew Smith, CEO, British Lithium.
The company will start manufacturing 5kg of lithium carbonate per day early this year, and once the process is fully developed, the company will increase capacity and build on a full-scale plant.
Roderick Smith, chairman of British Lithium, said the company’s goal is to produce 21,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate each year.
“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,” he explained.
“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 considering ramping up our operations over the next two or three years.”