Home U.K Cornwall's hidden treasure of 'significant' mineral stores could be export goldmine for UK

Cornwall's hidden treasure of 'significant' mineral stores could be export goldmine for UK

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously outlined his ‘Ten Point Plan’ to create 250,000 British jobs in clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies to allow the UK to reach the legally binding net-zero target by 2050. At the centre of his ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ are the UK’s industrial heartlands, including Cornwall – whose local council declared a climate emergency in 2019. Since then it has moved to generate around 37 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and is on track to be net-zero 20 years ahead of Mr Johnson’s target.

But Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local enterprise partnership (LEP), Mark Duddridge, has revealed to Express.co.uk how a goldmine of geothermal resources have also been uncovered on the southwest.

He said: “Cornwall sits on granite bedrock and within that is where you would have found traditional tin and copper – there’s still a lot of interest in those as the prices rise.

“But what a number of businesses have realised is that lithium – which was really a useless bi-product of the first Industrial Revolution – is also in high concentration of the granite.

“They are looking at different ways of extracting it – things like the UDDGP (United Downs Deep Geothermal Power Project) – which dug a three-mile hole down underground and pumps water into the hot rocks.

Cornwall hold significant stores of lithium

Cornwall hold significant stores of lithium (Image: GETTY)

Work is underway in Cornwall to extract its minerals

Work is underway in Cornwall to extract its minerals (Image: CORNISH LITHIUM )

“It comes back super pressured as 250C water. That energy can be used to heat homes, and be put back into the grid.”

Cornwall is now believed to be one of just five major lithium-enriched granite deposits in the world, something “no other part of the UK has,” according to reports.

And there are now numerous companies – including Cornish Lithium, British Lithium, Cornish Metals and Cornwall Resources – who have successfully raised private investment to explore how lithium could be harnessed.

Mr Duddridge, who is also the former Managing Director of Ginsters, added: “What we’ve been putting money behind is to research the technology behind extracting that lithium.

“That’s one way of doing things and other companies are also looking at lithium in its hard rock form.

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Several companies are looking at using the lithium

Several companies are looking at using the lithium (Image: CORNISH LITHIUM)

“The encouraging thing is that the amount of lithium they appear to be finding appears to be quite significant. 

“The hope is, particularly with geothermal, is you can produce lithium with a zero-carbon input by just using heat and water.

“You could potentially develop lithium batteries with zero carbon emissions.”

The LEP is putting £2.9million into what could be Europe’s first lithium recovery plant at UDDGP.

The ambition is to create a “gigafactory” in Cornwall to create lithium batteries – which are used to power electronic gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets, but can also supply energy to medical equipment, electric vehicles and power tools.

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Lithium could be used in electric car batteries

Lithium could be used in electric car batteries (Image: GETTY)

If successful, it could be the first time geothermal electricity is researched, produced and sold in the UK.

Mr Duddridge added: “If we’ve got the resources and the energy to run the places through deep geothermal, and the space, and the skills, and the airports and the road and rail links – it’s not inconceivable that we could do all the research and development.

“If we can combine that with some of the renewable energy then we have a really virtuous circle of doing this with a negligible carbon footprint which would be so powerful for the country.

“It’s relatively small, we’ve got four or five businesses raising money and doing stuff now. But all the results seem to show it is there to be done.

“It’s potentially very exciting for businesses, jobs and for the climate – it would be massively significant.”

Cornwall is at the heart of a green revolution

Cornwall is at the heart of a green revolution (Image: GETTY)

And Mr Duddridge thinks it will have even more applications in the future with the potential for it to be exported worldwide.

He continued: “In five years time this industry will look very different, I’m sure it will have scale.

“I think there is a confidence about the lithium resources being converted into batteries and those products are clearly exportable.

“But also the knowledge that goes behind doing it, this is such a specialist area – potentially people might be looking to use that on the Moon.

“Having that knowledge base over how to extract minerals from areas is very positive in terms of potential.

“There’s lots of talk about hydrogen, but if you’ve got the base energy to create the green hydrogen to begin with that could unlock other technologies and be used.”



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