The lithium sector could help create thousands of jobs in Cornwall
Cornwall could be at the forefront of clean energy production when a gigafactory is built in Somerset.
Lithium companies in the Duchy believe it will become a powerhouse of clean energy and electric battery production and could soon be trucking tonnes of the previous metal to the region’s gigafactory when it is built near Bridgwater.
The Faraday Institution estimates that the UK will require eight gigafactories by 2040. Each would employ between 2,000 and 3,000 people directly and support a further 7,000 to 8,000 jobs in the supply chain. The Institution says without domestic battery production the UK could see much of its car industry migrate overseas, with the loss of more than 100,000 jobs.
Penryn-based Cornish Lithium chief executive Jeremy Wrathall believes the South West can be at the forefront of clean battery production in the UK, adding: “We’re working to extract lithium from both hard rock and from lithium-rich geothermal waters that circulate deep underground. We believe that this could provide the foundation for a new, hi-tech battery metals industry in Cornwall which could in turn support battery and electric vehicle manufacturing in the South West and in the UK as a whole.”
Work to develop an ethical, sustainable lithium supply is rapidly accelerating and such efforts have already received backing from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) via the UK Government’s Getting Building Fund, and from Innovate UK.
Mark Duddridge, chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, said: “No-one should underestimate the collective will to make this happen in the South West. By melding Cornwall’s tech metal reserves with advanced manufacturing at Gravity we can create a new industry with potentially thousands of jobs, and make a major contribution to the UK’s net-zero targets.”
The team behind the 613-acre Gravity development site near Bridgwater recently toured potential lithium production facilities at Cornish Lithium and British Lithium in the Duchy to learn more about harnessing the necessary battery materials supply chain right on their doorstep.
The Heart of the South West LEP has supported preparation of the Gravity site with a £3.9m investment from the UK Government’s Local Growth Fund. The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP is investing £2.9m from the UK’s Getting Building Fund to build a pilot geothermal lithium extraction plant in Cornwall which is on course to be commissioned by the end of next month.
In addition to the grant investment for its geothermal direct lithium extraction plant, the company has secured £680,000 from the Automotive Transformation Fund, a collaboration between the UK Government and automotive industry, toward a hard rock extraction plant near St Austell.
Stephen Rushworth, Cabinet member for economy at Cornwall Council, added: “Cornwall is well placed to help lead the country’s de-carbonisation programme through the production of lithium for environmentally friendly transport. It accords very much with our own ambitions. Locally sourced lithium will ensure a secure supply to the ambitious new factory and will also create jobs and investment opportunities in Cornwall well into the future. This is very much to be welcomed.
The UK Government has recognised the strategic importance of Cornwall’s lithium resources, highlighting the domestic extraction and processing of this ‘critical mineral’ as a priority in last year’s security and defence review.
It is also backing St Austell -based British Lithium with a £2.9m grant from the Government’s Sustainable Innovation Fund to build a pilot plant to demonstrate its novel, sustainable technology for the production of lithium. British Lithium hopes to produce 21,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate a year, enough to support the production of half a million electric vehicles.
Director Andrew Smith said: “We can offer a sustainable, ethically sourced supply of this critical raw material, which will suit just in time battery and car manufacturing, and reduce imports from abroad. We are particularly thrilled to be offering well paid long term jobs in Cornwall.”
Source: Cornwall Live