PARIS, June 29 (Reuters) – French minerals group Imerys (IMTP.PA) on Thursday announced plans to mine lithium in the UK and said the site could supply two-thirds of batteries for Britain’s electric vehicles by 2030.
Imerys aims to produce around 20,0000 tonnes a year of lithium carbonate equivalent by the end of the decade at its mining site in Cornwall, southwest England, in partnership with British Lithium.
That would be enough to supply some 500,000 EVs by 2030, it said.
Global lithium demand is forecast to surge by around three-quarters between 2022 and 2025, helped by governments and industrial companies positioning to secure supply of battery materials as they promote EVs as a way of curbing emissions.
Imerys’ UK development, and its previously announced plan to mine the metal in central France, would reduce Europe’s current reliance on imported lithium for batteries, CEO Alessandro Dazza said.
“This project will change the picture,” he said on a call with reporters.
Most known lithium resources are located outside Europe, including in a so-called lithium triangle spanning Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. But Imerys says it has confirmed large deposits beneath its longstanding kaolin mines in Britain and France.
Shares in Imerys, which said it expects that the UK and French projects will make it Europe’s biggest producer of the metal, were up 3.5% in morning trade, outperforming a steady broader trend in Paris.
The company said in a statement that the Cornwall project has been approved by the UK government, and business minister Kemi Badenoch was quoted as welcoming the deal to strengthen domestic supply of critical minerals.
The UK project is expected to cost “hundreds of millions” of euros in investment, Dazza told reporters, adding it was too early to give precise figures and that talks with the authorities over state aid would follow.
The project was smaller than Imerys’ existing plan to mine lithium in France, where it aims to reach output of around 34,000 tonnes a year through a 1 billion euro investment, and Dazza said the UK site would have the advantage of being an open pit mine with a nearby processing facility.
Imerys said UK production could potentially start around the same time as its French output in late 2028, benefiting from synergies between the two projects.
In its UK partnership, Imerys has taken an 80% stake and will draw on British Lithium’s processing technology and existing pilot for battery-grade lithium, the French group said.