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 approved the plan for the plant, which is expected to produce the metal in refined form from 2025.
Since when is a hydroxide a metal?
No, they’ve not really quite grasped this.
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 locally.
Separate? Err, no.
Currently, it is estimated that more than 90pc of rare earth minerals are processed in China, even though the unrefined materials can be found in countries including Australia, the US, Chile and Argentina. Refined lithium is then used to make batteries for electric cars and a plethora of gadgets.
Lithium a rare earth? Err, no.
The other issue is that by definition such a plant processes spodumene concentrate. Which, given the rise of brines, geothermal and clay deposits might end up being the marginal production, the most expensive and the first to close as those other supplies rise. It’s a big bet that is, not a certain investment.