It’s really pretty obvious to me that we’re in a bubble concerning investments in lithium supplies. I’ve seen one project get funded just recently where I know, absolutely, that the technology they’re using is not in fact viable. It works, but it’s not economic. They are relying upon coproduction of other metals to make up the numbers and that’s a risky thing in mining.
Oh, sure, if you’re going for copper then you’ll take account of the gold, maybe the molybdenum credits, but they should be extra spice, not what pushes you over the line. Not that this is a law, rather just a rule of thumb.
However, bubbles o mean that interesting things get financed:
Claims that Cornwall is sitting on a multibillion-pound lithium bonanza are due to be tested after a start-up project that plans to drill for the metal raised £1m from a trio of experienced mining investors.
Cornish Lithium aims to extract the resource, which is in increasing demand for batteries, from hot underground salt water. Its new investors include Norwegian financier Peter Smedvig, founder of Smedvig Capital, whose net worth has been estimated at more than £900m.
I have absolutely no idea whether this will work, obviously. But it strikes me as being something which logically could.
Lithium “deposits” tend to be disperse. Another one I know of, there’s mountains of rock, in which there is zinnwaldite, that being 1.3% Li. So, you dig up the rock, crush it, get the zinnwaldite out, then process that. Sure, it can be done. That’s proven. Getting the rock out and the zinnwaldite out of the rock, is expensive.
There are other areas of the world where those mountains of granite have been worn down by erosion and the Li is now sitting in vast plains of salts. Much easier, which is why we get much current Li from such salt plains. There are also areas of the world where hot water has been circulating through rocks and so there are brines with it in. The rest of world production comes from this.
So, hunt for more brines underneath the right sort of granite mountains – which Cornwall is – and you’ve a good chance there. Granite with tin, tungsten in it is likely to have Li, and those Cornish rocks do.
The reason I know all of this is because the same structure should also contain Sc, or at least can. Unfortunately the hydroxide of Sc isn’t soluble in water meaning that you don’t get Sc concentrations in the brines. Sadly.
As I say, don’t know if Cornish Li will work although we do know it’s there in the slurry pits of China Clay mining. But it is a logical place to go looking, that’s for sure.