UK’s first major lithium refinery selects site

A lithium-ion battery at a Volkswagen plant in Germany. Lithium-ion batteries are key components in electric vehicles.

Jan Wojtas | Photo Alliance | Getty Images

LONDON — The facility, described as “the UK’s first large-scale lithium refinery”, will be located in the north of England, and those behind the project hope it will reach an annual capacity of around 50,000 metric tons once up and running.

On Monday, a statement released by Green Lithium on the London Stock Exchange website said construction of the £600 million (about $687 million) project would take three years, with commissioning scheduled for 2025.

The refinery will be based at Teesport, Teesside’s major port. Green Lithium said its product “will enter the supply chain for lithium-ion batteries, energy storage, grid stabilization and electric vehicle batteries.”

Along with its use in cell phones, computers, tablets and a plethora of other gadgets synonymous with modern life, lithium, referred to by some as “white gold”, is critical to the batteries that power electric vehicles.

The UK wants to stop selling new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2030. From 2035, all new cars and vans must have zero exhaust emissions. The European Union, from which the UK left on 31 January 2020, has similar goals.

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With lithium demand on the rise, European economies are trying to shore up their own stocks and reduce dependence on other parts of the world.

In a translation of her State of the Union address last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “lithium and rare earths will soon become more important than oil and gas.”

Speaking about security of supply, von der Leyen, who switched between several languages ​​during her speech, also stressed the importance of processing.

“Today, China controls the global manufacturing industry,” she said. “Nearly 90%… rare earth[s] and 60% of lithium is recycled in China.”

“Therefore, we will identify strategic projects along the entire supply chain, from mining to processing, from processing to processing,” she added. “And we will create strategic reserves where supplies are at risk.”

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Back in the UK, Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the Green Lithium refinery “will provide more than 1,000 jobs during its construction and 250 long-term high-skill jobs for local residents during operation.”

“It also allows us to act quickly to secure our critical mineral supply chains as we know that geopolitical threats and global events beyond our control can severely impact the supply of key components, potentially delaying the launch of electric vehicles in Great Britain. he added.

The news about Green Lithium comes after Britishvolt, another firm looking to gain a foothold in the electric vehicle sector, said it had received short-term funding that would allow it to defer administrative expenses for a while. The company said its employees also agreed to pay cuts for November.

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