January 7, 2022: Lithium excavation firm British Lithium said on January 5 it had produced its first lithium at pilot scale from the mica in the granite at its pilot plant in southwest England.
The plant, funded by the government agency Innovate UK, has been designed and built in seven months, the company says, and is based on four years’ research and development towards becoming fully operational.
“Our pilot plant incorporates all processing stages — from quarrying through to high purity lithium carbonate production,” said CEO Andrew Smith. “This includes crushing, grinding and beneficiating the ore, custom-built electric calcination at low temperatures, acid-free leaching and multiple purification steps that include ion exchange.
“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.”
Smith says the pilot plant will manufacture just 5kg a day to demonstrate its commercial value. Then, once the process is fully developed, work will begin on building a full-scale plant.
“Our goal is to produce 21,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate each year,” said British Lithium chair Roderick Smith.
A home-grown source of lithium is likely to soon be swallowed up by battery makers such as Britishvolt, which is building a gigafactory in the north of the country to help meet surging battery demand. The UK has banned the sale of new internal combustion engine cars from 2030.