Lithium mining in France: four questions about the mine project in the Massif Central


Lithium mining in France: four questions about the mine project in the Massif Central
Written by madishthestylebar

It is a metal necessary to carry out the energy transition. Imerys, a French industrial minerals company, announced on Monday, October 24, the mining of a lithium deposit, a first in the country. This material, which notably makes it possible to manufacture batteries to store electricity, must be extracted from an existing mine on the Beauvoir site, in the Allier. Franceinfo answers four questions about the project called “Emili” and which should see the light of day by 2027.

1What will the lithium be used for?

Lithium is an essential metal for the production of batteries. With the rise of electric cars and energy storage projects, demand has therefore risen sharply in recent years. Operation of the Beauvoir mine (Allier) should in particular enable Europe to get rid of its almost total dependence on China. At the end of the chain, it will make it possible to manufacture lithium-ion batteries to power the electric cars, which are supposed to be the only new vehicles that can be sold in the European Union from 2035.

The Emili project should produce enough lithium to power 700,000 electric cars per year by 2028, once the site is “fully operational”specifies the French group Imerys.

2How will it be produced?

Those are “underground processes”which will make it possible to recover the lithium on the Beauvoir site, explains The world. Currently, the open pit mine produces kaolin for the porcelain and ceramic industries. Lithium extraction operations must be carried out at a depth of 75 to 350 meters, in a “granitic area recognized for its richness in rare minerals”details the daily.

The extracted material will then have to be refined. For this, underground pipes will transport it to the nearest station and then to a refinement unit. “located in the region”, assures the company Imerys, which insists on the local character of the project.

3What will be the environmental consequences?

According to the project leaders, the underground processes planned for the exploitation of lithium in the Allier aim to limit the environmental consequences. And in particular CO2 emissions, “with emissions that are half those of all other rock lithium operations in existence today in the world”says Alessandro Dazza, CEO of Imerys, to the World. “We decided to make a completely underground mine, to grind and crush the rocks underground to avoid noise and dust”also details Alessandro Dazza with the Parisian.

Arguments that are struggling to convince the vice-president of France nature environment (FNE), who reacted to this announcement to AFP by denouncing in particular the absence of public consultations before the launch of this project : “Are we really ready to sacrifice part of the water and the ecosystem of the Massif Central to make electric cars at 40,000 euros that very few people will be able to afford?” Antoine Gatet adds:We must stop with the myth of the clean mine! It’s all about communication and flan. We do not know how to extract material from the subsoil in a clean way, because a mine always involves a large chemical processing plant nearby, which leads to exploitation, and ultimately pollution, of water and quantities amounts of waste that we do not know how to manage”.

4What are the economic prospects?

Imerys’ lithium operation, which will cost around 1 billion euros, should not start before 2027, the time to carry out experiments and evaluations. But this project could generate a thousand direct and indirect jobs in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, on two separate sites: the underground mica extraction mine containing lithium and a mineral purification and lithium hydroxide processing plant, less than 100 kilometers from the mine. With a production of approximately 34,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year for 25 years, this operation would become the second largest in Europe after that of Vulcan in Germany.

In the press release from the Imerys group, the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, gives his support to the project, which “will drastically reduce our lithium import needs”. For now, France imports 100% of this metal.

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