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190918 | “Staggeringly good” Lithium Exploration Results from Cornwall


“Staggeringly good” Lithium Exploration Results from Cornwall

New mining in Poldark country offers route to a green future

by Milo Perrin – article first appeared on

Lithium batteries are seen as key to any global energy demands that won’t rely on fossil fuels.

A crucial contributor to meeting the UK 2050 zero emissions target is the development of a new generation of cars and vans that don’t use petrol or diesel.

The global change to electric vehicles is not only driving the development and efficiency of lithium batteries but also the need for the metal itself. Because of this, Goldman Sachs called it “the new gasoline” and suggests demand could triple by 2025.

Lithium is a soft silvery alkali metal, the lightest metal and the lightest solid element. The need for lithium has never been stronger. There are many other uses apart from car batteries from phones and fridges to aeroplanes and industry robots, which should see a global ‘lithium rush’ in the forseeable future.

The UK Government has highlighted lithium as ‘a metal of importance’ within the technology sector. This means it recognises how beneficial to the future economic outlook of the country a secure supply of this precious metal would be.

Lithium is found in both hard-rock deposits and in salty brines. Right now, it’s mainly mined in large brine lakes or “salars” in what’s known as the “Lithium Triangle” in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia.

In China and Australia it is currently extracted from huge open cast mines.

These important sources are facing expansion challenges which makes new sources of supply ever more important and crucial to the growth of environmentally friendly technologies.

Lithium production from 1920 to present. Wikipedia

If only the UK had it’s own source of Lithium…

Well, it does, in a place that taught the world about hard rock, hot rocks mining: Cornwall.

Currently world famous as the setting for Poldark, Cornwall has a long history of exploiting the resources beneath our feet. The landscape is littered with many reminders of the mining industry and the skills and expertise developed here were exported around the world.

Cornwall’s historic mining landscape

This week MetAmpere, the first company to drill lithium exploration holes in the UK, described their test results from Cornwall as “staggeringly good”.

Having successfully completed 6 exploration drill holes at the site near St Austell, MetAmpere’s laboratory analysis of that drilling revealed over 200 metres of continuous lithium mineralisation from the surface.

MetAmpere Chair Roderick Smith.

In the end, several hundred million tonnes could be extracted from the site. The initial project is to build a quarry and processing plant capable of producing 20,000 tonnes of the highly sought-after metal each year – sufficient to power a whopping 350,000 electric vehicles.

Work at the Lithium exploration site in Cornwall

Photo Toby Weller

Lithium has never been extracted from the mica in granite before but the experts behind MetAmpere’s St Austell project say they are very excited about what they’ve so far discovered.

“The results from the drilling we’ve done to date are staggeringly good,” said MetAmpere Chair Roderick Smith.

Lithium Mica from Cornwall

“We’ve spent the last two years undertaking a range of reconnaissance activities and are looking at another three years before construction is planned. Our approach is always to research thoroughly and ensure feasibility before moving on to design, build and operation.

I can’t emphasise enough how very excited we are about this project – its extraordinary potential will bring huge economic benefits for Cornwall.”

Those benefits include an estimated 400 high value, full-time jobs once operational to one of the poorest regions in the UK and an indirect supply-chain employment for more than 3000 people.

“Cornwall has a very proud mining heritage and, from what we can see, a global future in lithium production,” said MetAmpere Chief Executive Officer Andrew Smith, who previously ran a large international mining team for the Cinovec lithium project in the Czech Republic.

MetAmpere CEO Andrew Smith at the St Austell site

The world needs far more lithium than is currently being produced to make the batteries renewable technology depends upon. China is dominating the industry at the moment, but Cornwall could soon be taking its place on the world stage too.” Smith added.

Watch this Video Report:

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Lithium Province

Jeremy Wrathall, CEO of Cornish Lithium commented recently “We believe that Cornwall has significant potential as a “lithium province” given the widespread presence of lithium-enriched granites”.

Wrathall’s company, now with a team that includes eight geologists, two mining engineers and three metallurgists, is trying to extract lithium from Cornish rocks using a different method to MetAmpere’s quarry at St Austell.

Cornish Lithium is focused on exploring for lithium within the hot springs that naturally occur beneath the surface in and around Cornish granites. These were regarded to be of great scientific interest in Cornwall’s mining hey-day due to their lithium content.

An old illustration of a Cornish Mine, which shows the presence of lithium rich hot springs Historical temperature data modelled in Leapfrog, the new 3D modelling software, shown in an iso-surface map.

Keith Liddell, a member of the Cornish Lithium shareholder group said “Given the extensive historic readings of lithium in geothermal brines as well as the recent advances in technology, we see a real potential for lithium production in Cornwall.

Combined with the global shift in focus towards electric vehicles and battery energy storage we believe that Cornish Lithium could potentially become a very significant player in the lithium industry in the UK and Europe”

“Cornwall also offers great potential to source many of the metals required for batteries that are becoming crucial in modern technologies. The lack of exploration in Cornwall for over 30 years means that one of the most highly mineralised areas in Europe remains effectively untouched by modern exploration techniques.” added Cornish Lithium CEO Jeremy Wrathall.

CEO Cornish Lithium Jeremy Wrathall

Mining for Heat


Cornwall’s hot rocks geology is also offering other new opportunities

Also announced this week was the news that drilling to establish the UK’s first deep geothermal electricity plant has been successfully completed near Redruth in Cornwall.

Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL) has established the deepest well ever drilled on UK soil, at circa 5.1km vertical depth. The well is also the hottest, with temperatures of approximately 195C. As the water moves through the rock it picks up heat which is then extracted and converted to electricity at the surface.

Initial water flow tests suggest that the project will be capable of producing the UK’s first geothermal electricity and a power plant is planned to be open by 2021 capable of powering 3,000 homes.

The electricity and heat energy produced from the plant will be continuous (24/7) as geothermal energy does not suffer from the peaks and troughs that many other renewable power sources are subject to.

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There are other geothermal projects in Cornwall taking advantage of the hot rocks including at the Eden Project and at the open air sea water Jubilee Pool, in Penzance.

The Art Deco lido was badly damaged by storms in 2014 but restoration works took the opportunity to access the natural warmth underneath and there will be a heated section of the pool next year.

Installing geothermal pumps at Jubilee Pool, Penzance

Clean Tin Mining – The promise of a return of precious metal mining to the Duchy is ever closer.

South Crofty Mine. “Cornish lads are fishermen, and Cornish Lads are miners too, but when the fish and tin are gone, what are the Cornish boys to do?’ photo – Cornwall Forever

Mining in Cornwall dates back to 2,300 B.C.

Production at South Crofty, an iconic former copper and tin mine located in Pool, was first documented in 1592 and the mine has been in operation intermittently since then.

Historical production between 1700 to 1998 totaled over 450,000 tonnes of tin from the Central Mining District.

South Crofty was always one of the largest mines in Cornwall but closed in 1998, coming after a prolonged period of depressed tin prices.

But prices have improved and extensive works to reopen the mine are well established, raising hopes that tin mining may yet return to Cornwall.

The price of tin 1989 – 2019

In January 2019, Cornwall Council invested £1 million in a share offering by Strongbow Exploration, the owners of the mine.

Richard Williams, President and CEO of Strongbow, said at the time,

“We have one of the highest grade tin resources globally. We are well placed to deliver “clean tin” to end users seeking to secure supply that is conflict-free, does not exploit child labour, and does not have a negative environmental impact”

Current works at South Crofty include excavation, shaft capping and Foundation Preparation for a Mine Water Treatment Plant

The current project received an Underground Permission (mining licence) in 2013, which is valid until 2071, and Planning Permission to construct a new process plant in 2011.

Strongbow, which has an agreement that guarantees a buyer of 5% of all tin produced at the South Crofty for the next ten years, is planning to dewater the mine which will then lead to confirmation of the mineral resources. Further investment will enable tin production to restart.

Lithium and other valuable minerals useful for the digital age are also hoped to be extracted from South Crofty using modern techniques.





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