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UK start-up wins funding for Europe’s first lithium refinery

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In a development that could help secure the future of the UK automotive sector, Livista Energy has received funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre, a government-sponsored institution, to develop its plans for building a lithium refinery in the UK.

Lithium is a key material for producing the batteries for electric vehicles. It is currently extracted in Australia from rocks or in South America from brine, although substantial deposits have also been discovered in Cornwall. The UK and Europe lack any capacity for refining it, however, making battery producers reliant on Chinese suppliers, which currently refine about 90% of the world’s lithium supplies.

Livista Co-founder Roland Getreide said the funding would help the company to choose a location for its refinery, adding:

“The electrification of the car fleet means a whole new supply chain and the UK government has chosen us to explain the process and how to build a refinery here. We have to make ourselves competitive.”

Getreide said his company was considering building its refinery at Blythe, Northumberland, the place where Britishvolt is building its £3.8 billion gigafactory to supply the UK automotive sector with batteries. Its planned facility will initially have the capacity to refine 30,000 tonnes of lithium a year, with this doubling as rising EV production drives greater demand for lithium.

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