Is Europe’s biggest lithium mine in France?

Allier, in the center of France, awaits one of the most promising mining fields for lithium in Europe. Primarily because of its strategic position and size. The industrial minerals group Imerys announced Monday that it will start mining this lithium deposit by 2027.

The site in Allier will be “one of the largest” in Europe and accounts for an investment of one billion euros. Imerys will exploit the mine for at least 25 years. The company has been drilling and studying the deposit for 18 months and registered “very attractive concentrations and quantities”.

34 000 tons

CEO of Imerys, Alessandro Dazza, said about the deposit that it “should provide a sustainable and competitive domestic source of supply for French and European carmakers and would make a significant contribution to meeting the challenges of the energy transition.” The potential is a production of 34 000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year, making it one of the biggest in Europe.

Imerys has already exploited Beauvoir’s site since 2005 for the production of kaolin, a raw material used in tiles and porcelain. But the presence of lithium in the subsoil of the site had already been identified since the sixties.

Interesting deposits

As for now, Europe has only one lithium mine, in Portugal. The European Union recognizes that it will depend on foreign markets to supply raw materials even after constructing the needed factories for battery cells. Interesting deposits are also located in Germany, Spain, Sweden, Greenland, and Norway.

To secure the supply of rare earth materials, the EU has formed the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA), bringing together companies, governments, and non-governmental organizations to build a consistent and sustainable supply chain for battery materials.

Securing contracts

Lithium mining is concentrated in areas like Australia, Chile, and Bolivia. China controls 65% of the worldwide processing and refining of lithium. Projects like the Imerys field play a central role in EV adoption. According to experts, there’s enough lithium in the ground but not enough investment to get it out, which might prove a bottleneck as demand for electric cars soar.

Several car manufacturers have concluded long-term contracts with mining and refining companies to cover a potential supply line shortage. BMW signed a €285 million agreement with Livent, which also partners with GM. Ford signed a binding deal with Ioneer. Pointing at the lack of future investment, Elon Musk has hinted several times at Tesla constructing its own refinery for lithium in Texas.

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