A major deal that could have huge repercussions for green energy in the North East has been sealed in Las Vegas.

At the Fastmarkets Lithium Supply and Battery Raw Materials Conference in the US, Northern Lithium and Evove announced the signing of a contract to install and trial a Lithium Extraction plant at Northern Lithium’s first production site in County Durham during the autumn of 2024.

The commercial agreement follows Evove’s extensive Direct Lithium Extraction processing at industrial-scale of saline brines extracted from Northern Lithium’s Northern Pennine Orefield last year  and the announcement of a partnership between Evove, Northern Lithium and engineering firm RSE in December 2023.

Lithium is a critical raw material in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries, so the milestone is welcome news for the country’s electric vehicle and power storage industries. A secure domestic supply of battery-grade lithium will provide significant environmental and economic benefits, as well as reduce the UK’s exposure to global supply chain disruptions. It is forecast that the UK will need up to 80,000 tonnes of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE) per year by 2030 and as much as 135,000 tonnes per year by 2040.

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The initial module of a DLE demonstration plant is due to be commissioned during the autumn of 2024, with successive modular expansion of the plant thereafter to reach first full-scale commercial production of battery grade lithium from 2027.

“This milestone agreement is the logical conclusion of intense preparation and successful piloting,” said Nick Pople, Northern Lithium Managing Director.

“Our goal is to achieve first commercial production from 2027 and scale up from there to 10,000+ tonnes of battery-grade lithium delivered per year from several production areas across the Northern Pennine Orefield within the next decade.”

“The DLE plant is engineered in modules to allow scalable expansion,” said Chris Wyres, Evove CEO.

“Northern Lithium has a variety of options for the production capacity and final lithium product created. It will demonstrate exemplary efficiency with some of the world’s most advanced technology for lithium extraction.”

Northern Lithium Founder and Chairman, Richard Morecombe, added: “Thanks to Evove’s DLE technology and expertise, we can now help the UK rapidly secure a sustainable supply of lithium from domestic sources, with UK technology and engineering at the core of our operations.”

Northern Lithium recently secured new longer term mineral rights from the Church Commissioners for England.

The company says it gives them a far wider geographical area to explore for and extract lithium and other minerals from saline brines within the granite of the Northern Pennine Orefield, County Durham, Northeast of England.

Northern Lithium has signed the exclusive Mineral Rights Agreement with the Church Commissioners for England, with the new agreement covering mineral rights owned by the Church Commissioners across 60,000 acres, providing up to 45 years for exploration, appraisal and production.