Cornish Lithium has secured an £18m investment to speed up the development of its mining projects as the UK attempts to wean itself off a reliance on Chinese minerals.
The mineral exploration firm, founded in 2016, said the funds from TechMet, which backs technology metals projects globally, will allow it to hunt for lithium reserves in further locations and investigate the potential for extracting geothermal energy from its boreholes.
It comes as Britain tries to build up its lithium mining sector and reduce imports of the rare metal from abroad, predominantly from China.
Demand for lithium, which is used to make batteries for electric cars, is predicted to grow ahead of a ban on vehicles using petrol and diesel from 2030. It is also used in digital devices including smartphones.
When questioned in parliament on Wednesday about security concerns over importing critical minerals used in tech products from China, prime minister Boris Johnson cheered the expansion of the UK’s lithium mining sector.
“There are some very interesting and potentially very lucrative sources of minerals such as lithium in this country, whose exploration, discovery and reuse we are encouraging,” he said.
“We are going to use freeports to ensure that we support them as hubs for the processing of those critical minerals here in the UK.”
Cornwall is home to prodigious reserves of the lightweight metal, according to geological surveys, setting up the region as a key player in Britain’s green industrial revolution.
As it stands, ruins of long-abandoned factories and towering chimney stacks along the Cornish coast are some of the only visible hints of the region’s industrial past. But while the county’s prospectors have been consigned to the history books, Cornish Lithium’s fresh funding may signal a significant move towards their revival.
Based in Penryn, Cornish Lithium set up a flagship exploratory mine known as United Downs in 2019 near Redruth – a town once known as the “richest square mile in the world” – as well as another key project near the village of St Dennis.