Lithium extraction planned in Northern Bohemia

Lithium battery, photo: Ansgar Hellwig, CC BY-SA 2.0 de

Lithium extraction is set to take place in former ore mines Northern Bohemia after the issuing of a permit to a Czech company, iHned.cz reported on Wednesday. The process will be technically complex but current high prices could make it a lucrative enterprise.

Lithium battery, photo: Ansgar Hellwig, CC BY-SA 2.0 de
The company Cínovecká deponie has fulfilled the conditions necessary to acquire a licence from the mining authority in Most to extract lithium at Cínovec in the Krušné hory (Ore Mountains), the news website said.

The firm is majority owned by RSJ Private Equity, which administers the property of the billionaire financial derivatives trader Karel Janeček.

Though the permit decision should take legal effect in the very near future, RSJ shareholder Libor Winkler said Cínovecká deponie would not begin operations for two or two and a half years, during which time it will set up a separation line to extract the metal.

RSJ has no experience of the mining industry but hopes to capitalise on the current high lithium prices and attract a buyer for the enterprise. Mr. Winkler told iHned.cz that if no suitable buyer or partner was found RSJ would then take all steps to begin lithium mining itself.

The extraction, at the site of a former tailings pond, will be difficult technically. However, Mr. Winkler said they were already aware of the level of lithium content in the mine dumps.

In addition, there will be no environmental issues surrounding the lithium production given that it will be a matter of processing already excavated materials, the RSJ shareholder said.

A number of analyses have shown that there are around 2,100 tonnes of lithium metal in tailings ponds in Cínovec created by previous tungsten extraction.

However, iHned.cz reported, the most commonly traded form of lithium on world markets is lithium carbonate produced through the treatment of lithium metal. The latter form is worth five times as much.

After Cínovec RSJ Private Equity is also eyeing a similar project in Horní Slavkov in the Karlovy Vary Region, where far more lithium – a total of 5,400 tonnes – lies in former tailings ponds.

Unlike in Cínovec, however, there is resistance to the idea, with the Horní Slavkov authorities concerned about the possible impact of minig trucks passing through the village. A local official said they favoured a rail connection.

Meanwhile, other companies are also eyeing lithium extraction in the Krušné hory, iHned.cz reported. Geomet, owned by Australia’s European Metals, has been conducting tests near the Cínovec tailings ponds for two years.

There has been a marked upswing in recent years in the consumption of lithium carbonate, which is used for instance in batteries in mobile telephones and electric vehicles.

iHned.cz said that US carmaker Tesla, which plans to produce half a million electric vehicles in two years’ time, will by itself require around 27,000 tonnes of lithium annually. That represents 16 percent of global consumption.

Meanwhile, German experts predict that the consumption of “high-tech” metals will more than double between now and 2035, iHned.cz wrote.