The industrial minerals group Imerys announced on Monday, October 24, 2022, an investment of one billion euros to exploit a lithium deposit located in Beauvoir, in the town of Échassières, in Allier, for at least 25 years.
Automakers use lithium for batteries in electric vehicles. China currently has a virtual monopoly on the lithium and battery market. France and the European Union lack this essential raw material to meet the goal of abandoning thermal cars by 2035 and replacing them with electric ones.
French and European lithium
We have lithium mines in France and we will develop them thanks to the new mining codeEmmanuel Macron promised on October 17 during a visit to the Paris Motor Show. Imerys’ announcement reflects this ambition.
The operation of the Beauvoir site, which has housed a quarry since 1850 to extract kaolin, should start in 2027.
But what are the French lithium resources? According to the Geological and Mining Research Office (BRGM), lithium is found in various sites in France, particularly in the Massif Central and in Brittany.
In a report made public in December 2018, BRGM reported 527 lithium occurrences in Europe, including 39 major projects or deposits. Therefore, Europe potentially has lithium, unlike cobalt, which comes 68% from the Congo…
The most represented countries are Spain, Finland, France, Ukraine and Portugal:
Also read: Lithium, cobalt… Why these metals are so strategic to develop the electric car
Six significant deposits in France
The BRGM report lists 41 lithium “resources and occurrences” in France. Among them, the BRGM highlights certain sites for their potential: Beauvoir (Allier), Tréguennec Prat-ar-Hastel (Finistère), Richemont (Haute-Vienne), Montebras and Brunet (Creuse).
The BRGM also considers other discoveries likely in “the environment of the known neighborhoods”, especially in the Massif Central. He also cites the Montagne Noire, the Maures-Tannerons, the Vosges, the outer crystalline massifs of the Alps and, finally, in Brittany, the south of the Armorican Massif and Léon.
These are the sites listed by the BRGM:
Lithium is found in a wide variety of litiniferous minerals, which require various processes to extract it and obtain a good quality lithium concentrate. This is a key element in evaluating the profitability of a deposit, since lithium extraction costs can vary considerably from one process to another.
Among the 41 sites investigated by the BRGM, two are already exploited for extractions other than lithium: Beauvoir (kaolin quarry) and Montebras (feldspar quarry). Two other deposits are old farms: the old Châtelet gold mine (Creuse) and the old Chaumette quarry (Lozère).
For the rest, the possible extraction projects will not be obvious and they will have to face resistance on the ground. The extraction and processing of lithium involves the construction of industrial facilities and infrastructure and the use of complex chemical processes. Nothing to delight local residents…
The Tréguennec site in Finistère would contain 66,000 tons of precious lithium, but it is also classified as a Natura 2000 area, that is, with great biodiversity. Its defenders mobilized in February 2022, although no mining project has been announced there so far.
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