Will Belgium soon supply the lithium for our batteries?
Lithium, an essential metal for the production of batteries for smartphones and electric cars, has been extracted from the subsoil in Mol, in the Kempen region, for the first time.
Eventually, the goal is to extract economically viable quantities of lithium from our soil to reduce our dependence on other countries.
At the Balmatt site in Mol, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) pumped hot water from a 3,600-metre-deep well to heat itself and some nearby companies. That water was found to contain the metal lithium, found mainly in mines or salt lakes in Chile and Australia. A modest 100 mg was currently measured per litre of pumped water. But a feasibility study by the geothermal company Hita, a spin-off of VITO and Icelandic for ‘heat’, shows that the concentration of the valuable metal would be economically viable. It contains up to €150 million of annual lithium revenue. Battery raw material producer Umicore seems very interested, as does Europe. It could also make geothermal energy cheaper.
It is hoped that this Belgian first will eventually produce enough lithium for the batteries of 125,000 electric cars a year.