Categories: Environment

The rush for “white gold” intensifies in Europe

Recently, several lithium mines have been discovered in France, as well as in other European countries, including Germany.

In eastern France and more recently in the Massif Central, lithium reserves that can be exploited are beginning to be recognized in France. In Europe, several countries are also identifying areas where “white gold” is found, in the hope of supplying their own battery factories and reducing dependence on China in this regard.

The town of Bitterfeld-Wolfen in Germany, once known for an ecological disaster, is now becoming a crucial part of the country’s green transition. This change is symbolized by the establishment of the first large-scale lithium refinery in the country, which is expected to play a central role in Europe’s plans to extract and refine the raw materials needed for electric vehicle power. Email

A significant lithium mine for Europe?

From May, this factory will produce lithium. The selection of Bitterfeld-Wolfen in eastern Germany, near key players in the German automotive industry, underscores the strategic importance of the site. The European Union has presented proposals aimed at securing supplies of critical raw materials, from lithium to cobalt to nickel for automobile batteries. The town of Bitterfeld-Wolfen, once a devastated bastion of the East German chemical industry, could see its future disrupted by this rush for “white gold”. The first module of the factory will be able to produce 20,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year.
While China is not the largest producer of raw lithium, it holds the majority of global processing capacity and a large portion of battery production. The EU aims to ensure 40% of the refining of materials deemed critical on its territory, and new mining and industrial projects are emerging in Europe, from Portugal to central France.

Objectives that are not achievable before 2030?

A complementary project aims to exploit a lithium deposit in Zinnwald, a former mining region in eastern Germany. Although the modest target of 10% local lithium supply is set by the EU, projects like Zinnwald could play a vital role in the supply chain. The Zinnwald mine is expected to be operating at full capacity by the end of the decade. While local extraction is only a partial solution, new processing capacities planned in Europe could potentially fully cover lithium demand, according to several analysts.

However, challenges in completing ongoing projects and delays in setting up new production sites could make it difficult to achieve the EU’s 2030 target.

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