How much lithium is there in the underground? That is the key question, because the rise and increasing sales of electric cars will require massive amounts of lithium in the future to produce the batteries for all these cars. Imports from Chile and some other Latin American countries will eventually no longer be sufficient and/or sustainable.
Pumped up brine
Broadly speaking, lithium is mined either from lithium ore (faster and more expensive) or from pumped brine (time-consuming and cheaper). The physical mining can theoretically take place on all continents, but it is mainly a few countries in Latin America that extract lithium from lithium ore in huge mines on a large scale. If we are to extract lithium ourselves in Europe, then the most obvious route is pumped brine.
What concentrations of lithium and what extraction techniques?
Germany recently came up with an astronomical figure. The underground would contain enough lithium for 1 million electric cars. The extraction would be done by means of deep geothermal power stations. Call it a by-product of pumped water for a hot water network.
With current technologies, it is perfectly possible to extract lithium from this pumped up brine. The Flemish government already has plans to research and evaluate this.
According to Geert De Meyer, CEO of HITA, a company that develops deep geothermal energy, several steps are still needed before it comes to this. Research is still needed to know the concentrations of lithium, as they can vary greatly. Only then will it be possible to calculate how much lithium is in our subsoil.
The various extraction technologies must also be evaluated in order to extract as much lithium as possible from the water pumped up. "After a positive evaluation, we can continue development. I do see the geothermal power plants starting up by 2027-2029," he concludes.
Source: VRT News