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Lithium: France kicks off race for “white gold” needed for electric batteries

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It is in 2028 that the exploitation of a lithium mine ought to start in Ichassieres, in Allier. According to a report revealed in 2018 by the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research, France has no scarcity of this metallic, which is important for the manufacturing of batteries, a market that China monopolizes at 75%. But its extraction additionally raises environmental issues.

At first look, it does not seem like lithium. A gentle, silvery grey, it’s the lightest of the metals and oxidizes rapidly in air or contact with water. However, it has properties that make it important for the manufacture of rechargeable batteries. Phones, laptops, cameras, cameras and even DIY and gardening instruments…

Twenty years in the past its exponential value was subsequently rapidly obvious. Between 1996 and 2005, it was multiplied by 3000% for computer systems. And since 2010, it has doubled in ten years worldwide.

Every yr the demand will increase by about 20%

After that? The Bureau of Geological and Mining Research estimates that common development in demand over the following decade will probably be 18% per yr, of which 60 to 86% will go to batteries. In phrases of costs, lastly, lithium in 2021 from €6,430 to… €45,030 per tonne earlier than surpassing €50,000 in 2022.

With the compelled march in the direction of electric automobiles, this metallic has certainly ensured that it has turn into extra strategic than ever. For France and Europe, which have set an finish to thermal engine development for 2035, this poses an enormous query to be addressed now: Are we going to commerce our dependence on fossil fuels from the Gulf petropowers for subjugation to China? ?

Occupied by China

Because the Middle Kingdom not solely produces 75% of rechargeable batteries, however for greater than a decade, Beijing’s technique has additionally been to extend its grip on the mining business and world strategic assets, in accordance with a report by the Center for Prospective Studies and International Information (Cepii), lithium a Being the main instance.

Major producing international locations are within the Southern Hemisphere. But “Chinese mining large Tianqi acquired Australian Talison Lithium in 2009, which operates the world’s largest lithium mine,” whereas “Chinese teams have signed contracts for 9 of the eleven main lithium-related operations and tasks in Australia,” notes Cepii, quoted by the journal. financial different.

Conclusion? China now transforms and concentrates 52% of the world’s lithium manufacturing and 25% of reserves. Faced with this commentary, Europe and France are reacting, as anticipated.

France has reservations

Published in 2018, a BRGM report painted a optimistic image of French lithium assets and prospects. At the European degree, this new “white gold” will weigh 24 million tons with the primary deposits in Spain, Finland, Ukraine, Portugal, but additionally France “among the many most energetic international locations by way of lithium potential”. BRGM.

Massif-Central, Brittany, north of Alsace but additionally Occitania: its map exhibits a wealthy subsoil. “We have lithium mines and we’re going to develop them […] This is the important thing to our sovereignty,” Emmanuel Macron mentioned clearly within the October 17 bodily life. the echo.

Two exploration permits have thus been validated in Bas-Rhin and Allier, a division the place the industrialist Emeris introduced on October 24 the launch of the “Emilie” undertaking in Echacieres (see web page 3). Six requests are additionally underway in mainland France, together with three for Haut-Vienne.

A really water-intensive metallic…

However, one other actuality will even prevail on this mine of the long run: it takes two tons of water to supply one gram of lithium. Could there be a strategic menace? Lithium battery recycling will even be a serious subject, predicts the previous Areva, which grew to become Orano, which is investing within the sector.

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