French lithium mine project unveiled in electric car race

  • Imerys is targeting 34KT/year of lithium hydroxide production from 2028
  • Existing on-site project in central France supported by the government
  • CEO says group will start discussions with potential partners

PARIS, October 24 (Reuters) – The French mining group Imerys (IMTP.PA) on Monday unveiled plans to develop a lithium mine in central France which it says could be a major contributor to Europe’s quest for materials for electric vehicle batteries.

Electric cars like those of Renault (RENA.PA) Zoe is key to the European Union’s emissions reduction strategy and the bloc is trying to reduce reliance on battery supplies from Asia.

Imerys aims to produce 34,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year for at least 25 years from 2028 at an existing mine in Beauvoir, north of Clermont-Ferrand.

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It would be one of the biggest lithium mining projects in Europe, the company said, and enough to supply around 700,000 electric car batteries a year – a significant part of the government’s target of 2 million vehicles. electricity per year produced in France by 2030.

Imerys was surprised by the scale of the resource after a previous geological survey from 1960 showed a much smaller deposit, chief executive Alessandro Dazza told Reuters by telephone.

The group will now start discussions with potential industrial and financial partners, including car manufacturers, with a view to deciding on an investment model before the main construction phase which is expected to cost around 1 billion euros (983 million euros). dollars) and start mid-2025, Dazza said.

“The game starts now,” he said of the partnership talks.

Imerys is positioning the project as a low-emissions project, aided by the use of an existing mine site and underground mining aided by electric vehicles.

New mining projects can attract local opposition, as evidenced by environmental protests in Serbia that led the government to revoke permits held by Rio Tinto (RIO.L), (RIO.AX) for Europe’s largest lithium project.

Imerys does not see significant risks in building permits granted with the support of local and national authorities, Dazza said.

The mine project was welcomed by the French government, which announced it was one of five critical metals projects, also including a recycling program run by mining group Eramet. (ERMT.PA)which would receive total funding of 100 million euros.

Imerys has estimated the direct cost of lithium at 7-9 euros per kilo for the planned mine, which will be located at its Beauvoir site where it has been extracting kaolin for ceramics since the end of the 19th century.

Shares of the company closed up 5% in Paris.

The majority of the world’s lithium production and known reserves are located outside of Europe, notably in Australia, South America and China.

Eramet is developing lithium production in Argentina and is one of the companies exploring geothermal lithium extraction in the Rhine basin around the Franco-German border.

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Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Tassilo Hummel, David Holmes and Bernadette Baum

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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