Certain metals and rare earth elements are in high demand around the world, as automakers start producing electric vehicles instead of combustion engine cars and trucks. A challenge for the production of electric vehicles is to find enough raw material, which can be difficult to acquire and sometimes scarce. One of the critical raw materials for the construction of batteries used in electric vehicles is lithium.
Germany has announced that it has discovered significant deposits of lithium under the Rhine and plans to mine the critical material. According to authorities, the deposit under the river may contain enough to build 400 million electric cars. The Upper Rhine valley in the Black Forest area in southern Germany lies in an area about 186 miles long and up to 40 kilometers wide.
Lithium is in a molten state and is trapped inside underground sources of boiling water, thousands of meters below the Rhine River. If the estimates of the size of the lithium deposit are accurate, it would be one of the largest deposits in the world. If the material can be successfully extracted, it would reduce Germany’s dependence on imported lithium, and the first negotiations are already underway with automotive manufacturers.
Authorities wishing to extract the critical material are concerned about possible local opposition to mining operations. So far, most lithium deposits have been located in remote areas of Australia or South America, where there is little population to oppose mining operations. Vulcan Energy Resources plans to invest about $ 2 billion to build geothermal plants and facilities to extract lithium.
The company believes it can extract 15,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year from two locations by 2024. A second phase would start in 2025 onwards, with a view to producing 40,000 tons per year at three additional facilities.