Slow progress casts doubt on domestic German lithium mining projects
Tentative steps in Germany to initiate a domestic sourcing of lithium are not making much progress, leading to concerns over their profitability, Michael Bartsch reports for newspaper Tageszeitung (taz). The German Lithium GmbH in Saxony, which plans to tap into a 125,000 tonne deposit of the metal needed in car batteries and other storage devices in the eastern Ore Mountains, wants to start operations in 2025. The project requires the construction of a mineshaft for around 30 million euros, but the reservoir's rocks contain only 0.3 percent lithium, so mining lithium there would be far less cost effective than purchasing it on the global market. Another pilot is running in the Upper Rhine Valley, where lithium could be filtered out of deep aquifers that are already being used for geothermal energy generation. This undertaking could start large scale operations in 2024. But German projects are hampered by difficult calculations regarding the initial investments and long term rentability, the author writes.
Germany currently imports its entire lithium demand. Eighty percent of the world's production comes from Chile, Argentina and Australia. While an increasing number of electric cars, a key ingredient to the country's transition to a CO2 neutral economy, will mean rising demand for lithium, it does not necessarily lead to supply shortages, the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut) has said. At the same time, other battery technologies, e.g. sodium-ion batteries or the so-called solid-state battery, could offer alternatives to the current lithium-ion battery standard.