Cornish Lithium aims to establish a strong, sustainable and environmentally responsible extraction industry in the UK for those minerals that can contribute to the global goal of decarbonisation, through clean growth and a transition to a green economy.
The granite rocks that underlie Cornwall are rich in lithium and heat. This means there is significant potential for lithium-enriched geothermal waters across the region. These waters can be accessed via boreholes drilled from the surface into permeable geological faults at depth. Once the waters have been pumped to the surface, it is possible to selectively extract the lithium compounds using environmentally responsible Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technologies. By utilising geothermal energy to power this extraction, there is the opportunity to produce zero carbon lithium.
Lithium was first discovered in ‘hot springs’ in deep Cornish mines in 1864, by Professor Miller of King’s College in London. Historic records indicate the presence of such lithium-enriched geothermal waters across the whole of Cornwall, where they circulate naturally within permeable geological structures. These highly permeable geological structures cut across the region and can penetrate to many kilometres deep.
Cornish Lithium is evaluating the economic viability of extracting lithium from these waters through regional exploration and targeted drilling campaigns. There are two main opportunities within this work stream:
Lithium from ‘shallow’ geothermal waters (approximately 1-2km depth). These waters are warm and there is potential to use this heat energy to aid the lithium extraction process.
Lithium from ‘deep’ geothermal waters (depths of over 5km). Deeper waters are significantly hotter than at a shallower depth, which means there is potential for the geothermal waters to be used to produce zero carbon electricity as well as heat. This electricity could be used to power a lithium extraction plant and enable lithium to be extracted from the same waters. Lithium produced in this manner has the potential to have a net zero carbon impact.
Potential also exists to extract lithium from mica minerals within the granite rock which underlies Cornwall. Cornish Lithium is developing this opportunity at its flagship Trelavour project in the St Austell region of Cornwall.
The potential opportunity to extract metals such as lithium, tin and cobalt in Cornwall could represent a significant strategic advantage for the United Kingdom. These critical metals must be extracted responsibly to ensure the sustainability of our local environment and Cornish Lithium believe in investigating innovative techniques to assist in this goal. One such example is the opportunity to co-produce low carbon lithium and renewable energy from geothermal waters.
Cornish Lithium aim to incorporate circular economy and systems thinking within their business model in order to maximise the sustainability of their activities and surroundings for the benefit of their stakeholders. Innovate UK funding has been secured for a consortium involving Cornish Lithium, Imerys Minerals Limited and sustainable manufacturing innovation consultancy, HSSMI to assess the potential for co-production of lithium and china clay (kaolin) in Cornwall. The project will assess the potential to produce lithium from waste material produced from both current and historic kaolin operations. Whilst contributing to a domestic supply of lithium, this could support the move towards a circular economy and supporting a more competitive kaolin industry in international markets.