The race to grab all the UK’s lithium before it’s too late

A sample mined by British Lithium during its exploratory work at St Austell DAVE IMMS

Excerpt from wired.co.uk

HIDDEN IN THE hills of St Dennis in Cornwall, a short drive away from the mining village once known as the richest square mile in the world, lies a gigantic hole in the ground. This is not unusual; the area is pitted with hundreds of old and abandoned mines where for almost 300 years tonnes of copper, tin, tungsten and clay were taken from the earth. What is odd, at least in 2021, is the noise coming from it: the steady sound of digging.

Finding the source of the sound involves a cautious ascent on a rocky path to the mouth of the Trelavour Downs, where dense vegetation gives way to a stark landscape ripped apart by heavy machinery. Entire chunks of land are missing, leaving behind white craters where hills abruptly turn into chasms. On a bright day, looking at the white walls is like gazing into the Sun.

In the midst of this scene on a Tuesday afternoon in April is an almost comically small red digger, chugging noisily away at a small hole in the ground. This, say hard hat-wearing geologists from lithium-extraction company Cornish Lithium, is the place that will herald a mining renaissance.

Cornish Lithium is one of two local companies – the other being British Lithium – that believe that this shiny metal could be a new gold rush for Cornwall; an opportunity to revive an industry that waned decades ago and left many of the traditional mining villages impoverished. But their mission is bigger than that: they think these deposits could unlock the UK’s electric dreams, making the extraction of lithium and manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries possible in the country for the first time, reducing the substantial ecological footprint of current battery technology. They believe there could be enough lithium in Cornwall to meet UK demand when the country moves from fossil fuel vehicles to electric ones – they just have to find a cost-effective way to get it.