St Austell-based British Lithium Limited (BLL) has been awarded over £2.9 million from the Government’s Sustainable Innovation Fund (SIF).

The funding will allow BLL to progress its plans for a pilot plant to prove the sustainability and commercial benefits of its innovative Li-Sep technology for extracting battery-grade lithium from micaceous granite.

The pilot plant will also produce samples for customer acceptance, tailored to individual customer requirements. Once proven, the company hopes to move on to full-scale production of an annual 21,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate in 3 to 5 years’ time.

British Lithium CEO Andrew Smith said: “We are delighted to have won Government recognition of our important work in Cornwall and the significant contribution we’ll be making to ‘building back better’ and achieving zero carbon emissions.

“We are excited by the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday (March 16) of the Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy and note that priority actions include domestic extraction of lithium, as well as its recovery and re-use, and the acknowledgement that funding for our lithium pilot plant is part of that commitment.

“Our growing team of experts have spent the last three years on intensive research and development and have built our own state-of-the-art laboratory to further develop our technology.

“The results achieved so far have exceeded all expectations and we are now looking forward to expanding our operation to showcase what is possible – not just locally and nationally, but globally too.

“We’re very grateful for the help and support of Innovate UK.”

BLL was the first company to drill for lithium in the UK in early 2019, and its fourth drilling campaign, the largest yet, commenced in February.

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, has taken a keen interest in the BLL project from its inception.

“This latest funding award is excellent news and I’m excited to see the pilot plant develop and all that it achieves,” he said. “It was great to see lithium extraction in Cornwall specifically referred to by the Prime Minister in the Integrated Review statement this week, recognised as an essential part of our future security and an essential element of our drive towards a much greener future.

“This will put Cornwall at the heart of our national future industrial strategy and attract the investment and well-paid jobs Cornwall needs.

“I’ve been following progress closely and will continue work with all concerned over the months and years ahead to see these ambitions fulfilled.”