Councillors tour pilot plant

L-R: Harry Bathgate with his finger on the pilot plant button, Andrew Smith, Cllr Carol Mould, Cllr Richard Pears, John Walker

Three Cornwall Council Cabinet members have been shown the UK’s first home-produced lithium carbonate.

Councillors Carol Mould, Richard Pears and Stephen Rushworth handled a jar containing the compound after touring British Lithium’s new lithium pilot plant near Roche – a groundbreaking development largely funded by Innovate UK.

Lithium carbonate is used in the batteries that power electric cars and is a key component of a reduced carbon future. British Lithium has been researching and developing its project to extract lithium from the mica in Cornish granite for the last four years and commissioning of its new £4 million pilot plant is now underway.

The company’s Cornwall Council guests were able to see the machinery that has been specifically designed for British Lithium’s innovative and sustainable processes. They also heard about a timetable that is currently on course to see full-scale commercial production taking place in 3 to 5 years’ time.

“I’m amazed by the huge amount that’s been done since I last visited in August,” said Richard Pears. “It was largely a vast empty shed then. Now it’s buzzing with activity and state-of-the-art equipment.

British Lithium clearly means business and that’s great news for Cornwall, the UK and for everyone globally who believes in tackling climate change.”

Councillor Mould was accompanied by her 11-year-old grandson Harry Bathgate who was similarly impressed.

“I’m interested in learning about how the lithium that’s needed for batteries is made and how much is going to be needed to run our country in a more environmentally-friendly way,” he said. “I’m going to tell my class and teacher all about it next week.”

British Lithium CEO Andrew Smith and Strategic Advisor John Walker showed the councillors around.

“Our operation will have huge economic benefits for Cornwall once we are in full-scale production,” said Smith. “The Council’s support is vital in helping us progress our plans and we’re delighted with the councillors’ enthusiasm and can-do attitude.”

Economic benefits include an estimated £275 million spent during British Lithium’s construction phase, 400 high value, full-time jobs, indirect supply-chain employment for more than 3,000 people and a projected annual expenditure in Cornwall of around £120 million.