A new step towards Alsatian lithium

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A new step towards Alsatian lithium

New chapter in the history of French lithium. The mining group Eramet and Électricité de Strasbourg, supplier, announced on Thursday, January 26, a strengthening of their collaboration in a project for the sustainable development of Alsatian lithium. Signing an exclusive memorandum of understanding, they plan to develop production from Alsatian geothermal brines by the end of the decade.

The two partners estimate that the extraction could provide 10,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year, corresponding to the needs of around 250,000 electric vehicle batteries. Production could see the light of day by 2030 if Eramet and Électricité de Strasbourg agree on the final investment decision “within a four-year horizon”, they point out in a press release.

Their cooperation began in 2020, within the framework of the European research project EUGeLi. The two companies have carried out several experiments from two deep geothermal wells in northern Alsace, at Soultz-sous-Forêts and Rittershoffen. In January 2022, the partners announced that they had produced the first kilograms of battery-grade lithium carbonate from geothermal brines.

According to the Geological and Mining Research Bureau (BRGM), the deep geothermal sites currently in operation in the Rhine basin could cover up to 20% of European needs, 30% of those of France. This is a lever that would make it possible to meet constantly increasing demand: the European Union estimates its lithium needs to be 18 times greater by 2030, 60 times by 2050. Currently, 87% of the unrefined lithium it imports comes from Australia.

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Production via Alsatian geothermal energy would be much more sustainable than mining (envisaged by the Imerys group in the Massif Central) and would contribute to the development of geothermal energy, a ” energy (…) decarbonized (…) who would contribute (…) to the energy transition, according to the press release. But deep geothermal projects could face a different kind of threat: that of earthquakes. In 2020 and 2021, several induced earthquakes shook the territory, arousing fear among residents and local elected officials.

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