Lithium extraction in Cañaveral, Extremadura, is closer. Lithium Iberia, the company in charge of the exploitation, has presented a project to the Junta de Extremadura that, if approved, will allow the creation of the largest lithium mine in Europe from 2025. A project that is not without controversy.

Scarce resource. Lithium is essential for the production of electric car batteries. At the moment, and in the face of new developments that reduce its use, this mineral is a scarce commodity and essential for expanding this technology.

Since 2020, the consumption of lithium has increased by 33% and, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), its demand will have multiplied by 43 in 2040. In fact, the demand is so strong that ways to recycle it are already being sought to guarantee supply in the future.

lithium fever. In recent months, the price of lithium, like other raw materials, has skyrocketed. So much so that it puts at risk a reduction in the cost of the electric car in the short term or, at least, not as fast as the manufacturers themselves were already considering.

In fact, the price of lithium has quintupled in recent months and Morgan Stanley suggests that the price of batteries will increase their costs by 25% if so. The solution for some brands is clear: mine it themselves to reduce intermediaries and, therefore, costs.

The controversy. One of the European spaces that has the most lithium is Extremadura. In the Autonomous Community for years there has been a continuous tug of war between companies, institutions and citizens for the convenience or not of lithium extraction. The reasons, the usual ones: is there enough job creation to compensate for the environmental damage and the destruction of traditional employment in the area, such as livestock farming? Will it affect an advance for the region?

A good number of citizens of Cáceres have been protesting for some time about the possible exploitation for the extraction of lithium from their nearest mountain. A natural environment that, in addition, they assure that it is just three kilometers from the city.

Reedbed. Near Cáceres, the municipality of Cañaveral has also raised the interest of extraction companies, this time from Lithium Iberia. The company has presented a project in the Junta de Extremadura in which the investment to be made is increased to 340 million euros and they assure that they will be able to create more than 430 direct jobs.

With its latest update, Lithium Iberia increases the allocated budget and the expected number of direct jobs, in addition to delaying the start of exploitation until 2025. If it goes ahead, the mine would become the largest in Europe and would generate 1.2 million tons of ore per year and more than 30,000 tons of lithium sulfate per year that can be used for batteries. In a farm with 30 years of duration.

The lithium mecca. Extremadura’s lithium reserves have not only focused the attention of companies planning deposits in Cañaveral and Cáceres. Volkswagen considered taking its next battery gigafactory to the region, instead of Sagunto, and the president of the Board, Guillermo Fernández Vara, has assured that for the extraction of lithium it will be necessary to guarantee that it will not be exported abroad.

One of the most interested companies is Phi4tech, which has planned a factory for battery cells in Badajoz and for cathodes in Cáceres. What seems to be one of the most important requirements for extracting companies to be able to exploit the mineral.

Photo: Phi4tech


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