Plans to build the biggest lithium hydroxide refinery in Europe in Teesside have been given the go-ahead, paving the way for the creation of 1,000 jobs and a local supply of a key battery material.
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council have approved the plan for the plant, which is expected to produce the metal in refined form from 2025.
Tees Valley Lithium will be the first major ultra-low carbon Lithium Hydroxide plant to be established in Europe and will mean Lithium miners in Africa, Australia and South America can gain access to the burgeoning European market by
exporting a high-value, low-carbon intermediate product.
The new lithium refinery will be able to supply four gigafactories and Alkemy, the company behind the project says they are confident they will find plenty of buyers for the lithium it will produce according to Chief Executive John Walker.
Mr Walker said:
Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor added:
The plant will receive material that is already quite high in lithium content after an initial refining process is carried out near to the mines in Australia which will supply it.
The refinery will then use green electricity from vast North Sea offshore wind farms to separate the material into lithium hydroxide and sulphuric acid as a byproduct, which can be sold to chemical firms. Refined lithium is also used to make batteries for electric cars and a plethora of gadgets.
Lithium is an essential component of batteries and a secure supply will be critical for our automotive and energy industries. Critical minerals are irreplaceable in products essential to our everyday lives – such as mobile phones, wind turbines and fighter jets.
However, these critical minerals are at high risk of supply disruption, because of volatile markets and complex supply chains. The world in 2040 is projected to need four times more critical minerals than it does today.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said:
According to Mr Walker demand for lithium which is locally produced is likely to rise sharply in the coming years. He added that car makers and other industries trying to decarbonise are likely to want to find sources other than China, which currently dominates the market.
89% of the world’s lithium processing currently takes place in East Asia and there are currently no lithium refineries in Europe.
Mr Walker said:
Shares in Alkemy Capital Investments rose 24 percent in London following the news.
Photo credit: Tees Valley Lithium