Europe revives mining to reduce dependence on the import of key raw materials, supply from Serbia as competitive choice

European officials expect that the Law on Critical Raw Materials, which was presented last week, significantly improve the capacity of the extraction block, processing and recycling of key metals, such as lithium. The law aims to reduce dependence on third countries, while China currently dominates in the supply chain of numerous items on the European list of strategic metals.

The EU is also in the race with the United States, which already invest large funds in capacity to produce critical metals under the auspices of the Law on Defense Production and Inflation Reduction Act.

Europe may, however, has provided himself to himself through simplifying the procedures for issuing permits for projects, a painstaking process, which is often stretched for years before the first shovel hits the ground.

The law covers a list of critical minerals in the EU, with a special focus on battery metals, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese.

Copper is on the list as a driver of everything electricity, while aluminum and zinc are not, which could be a striking omission given the recent reduction of European production capacities.

While environmental organizations are concerned about Brussels plans to increase the exploitation of critical raw materials, the advocates of this approach say that it is necessary to achieve the green goals of the block.

The European Union wants to diversify the supply of critical raw materials by China and facilitate the use of mineral reserves needed to build green technologies, such as wind turbines and solar panels.

However, local population and environmental activists warn that reducing bureaucracy for projects of exploitation and biodiversity, pointing out that mining can cause serious water and soil pollution and lead to biodiversity forests.

This conflict between European appetite for critical raw materials and its ambitions to protect the continent – local protests are underway against new mining projects in Portugal, Germany, Sweden and Spain, which will only intensify after the adoption of new acceleration legislation Mining activities.

The draft rules suggest that the European Commission could be able to mark strategic plans of public interest, which would prioritize them in the event of a conflict with other EU legislation, for example with the law on conservation of species.

The reason for this is a fear that the EU cannot increase its reserves of key minerals without mitigating strict environmental requirements, which makes the opening of new mines represents a large bureaucratic headache.

Environmental ecologists claim that EU protection rules are necessary and to destroy local biodiversity in search of materials that would become climatic neutral either counterproductive.

Faster drilling

Getting a green light for a new mining project in Europe can take up to 15 years – something that the EU wants to improve in its critical raw material law.

According to the draft, the Commission will allow mining projects that are marked as strategic to receive short terms of two years for permits, with the aim of reducing its dependence on imports.

Although the EU cannot deliver all the raw materials they need, its most important lithium projects, for example, could satisfy 25 to 35 percent of European demand by the end of the decade. Currently, about 78 percent of Lithium in the Block comes from Chile.

Mining companies have long claimed that the issuance of licenses can only be accelerated if the EU agrees to alleviate some ecological rules, such as zero emissions into water, which is difficult to perform.

Mining projects in protected areas, although allowed, also must also undergo an additional impact assessment to show that it will not damage the site integrity.

Treatment of mining activities as projects from primarily public interest would solve a number of similar issues.

Since most well-known reserves of critical raw materials in the block is in protected areas or near them, the EU will have to concesses in nature protection if they want to exploit them, leaders say in the mining industry.

Green groups fought for long anti-expansion of mining in Europe, by favoring efforts to reduce consumption and sources of raw materials in other ways, including recycling and developing alternative materials.

In the light of the new plan of Brussels, they now call for the EU law on nature. However, they fear that the focus of law will increase the offer of raw materials at all costs, not limiting the impact of mining on the environment.

Non-governmental organizations and experts warn that the Commission shoots themselves in the leg if they ignore environmental concerns because protests against new mining projects could potentially disrupt EU goals.

Serbian “critical raw materials”

The demand for rare natural metals for wind turbines is expected to grow four and a half to 2030. Demand for lithium, the key battery element in electrical vehicles and devices will increase 11 times to 2030 and 57 times until 2050, according to the assessments of the Commission. However, only a small part comes from the EU mine.

The largest estimated lithium sites in Europe are in Germany, Czech and Serbia. Legs in Germany are located in large depths and require new extraction technologies that, among other things, can cause earthquakes, and whose environmental and economic sustainability is not yet sufficiently explored.

In 2021, Serbia has begun negotiations on Chapter 15, concerning energy, which implies the implementation of the relevant legal achievements of the European Union, the use of energy protection, the use of renewable energy sources and protection of competition to Serbia.

It remains to be seen whether the new European Regulation will re-open the issue of the controversial project Lithium Jadar.

Although neither new law or accompanying documents mention Serbia, increased cooperation with strategic partners around the world has been announced and it seems that Serbia will be an important point in future plans of European critical raw material mines.

Also, in Serbia, there are a borough bay, natural salts containing pine and are mainly used to produce glass, but also vital for plant growth, so they are in fertilizers.

In addition, they use for insulating homes and in car safety components such as airbags. Currently, the EU gets a huge majority, 98 percent, its borants from Turkey.

On the other hand, the Serbian exploitation mining company Belkanhan could become a primary supplier of EU graphite, which is also on the list of critical materials. It is used in pencils, batteries, steel furnaces, and can be converted into artificial diamonds.

BELKALHAN mine is based on a high quality graphite, with 4 million tons of reserves confirmed at only 25 percent of the project location. The mine is marked as a mineral deposit from national interest in the EU.

Potentially a joint venture partnership and investments will enable Belkalhan to integrate the graphite-based product chain for numerous lithium-ion batteries for electrical vehicles, fuel cells, graphene and nanomaterials, heat management in consumer electronics and smart consumer electronics and smart products buildings.

Czech Republic, European Metals expects surge in gigafactory battery output

European Metals said the latest half-year saw “continued progress” towards the finalisation of a Definitive Feasibility Study for its Cinovec lithium project in the Czech Republic.

Discussions with prospective offtakers and project financiers are also ongoing, it said.

“From a macro perspective, the price for lithium remains extremely strong with Lithium Carbonate setting all-time high prices in October and the expectation of continuing strong demand within the European Union for lithium resulting from the announcement of gigafactory production capacities of approximately 120 GWh in 2022” it added.

By 2025, this is expected to quadruple to over 500 GWh, and by 2030 potentially fourteenfold to up to 1.7 TWh.

Cash at the period end was A$17.5mln with losses for the half year to end December at A$4.7mln (A$1.76mln), Pro Active Investors reports.

Resource Mining Corporation confirms high-grade lithium in Finland

Resource Mining Corporation Ltd has moved swiftly to acquire three highly prospective lithium and base metal projects in Finland after fieldwork returned high-grade results including nickel and copper.

The fieldwork formed part of due diligence to acquire Element92 Pte Ltd, which owns Element92 Suomi Oy, the Finland-incorporated company that holds the exploration reservations for the Ruossakero Nickel Project in northern Finland, Kola Lithium Project in central Finland and Hirvikallio Lithium Project in southern Finland.

A share swap agreement has been executed between RMC and ROPA Investments (Gibraltar) Ltd, the shareholder of Element92, involving the issuance of 40 million RMC shares.

Meantime, mining veteran Andrew Nesbitt will commence his new role as chief executive officer for RMC on January 16.

“Extremely pleased”

Resource Mining Corporation’s executive chairman Asimwe Kabunga said: “We are extremely pleased with the results from this initial fieldwork undertaken as part of our due diligence and now that we have executed the share swap agreement, we look forward to the next phases of exploration.

“We believe the three projects have shown there is the potential to discover economic resources of lithium and base metals, and we are working on the conversion of the reservation permits to exploration licences so we can commence drilling and other exploration activities across the projects.”

Showing potential

Skapto Consulting collected 179 samples from various parts of the projects and forwarded them to ALS Finland Oy for analysis.

Notably, the Kola project returned up to 2.4% Li2O, with glacial movement modelling indicating a large area of potential pegmatite within the central portion of the reservation.

Other highlights included 3.9% Li2O from rock chip samples taken at Hirvikallio, with numerous other pegmatites within the reservation containing anomalous lithium values up to 0.9% Li2O, which is higher than those recorded during previous exploration works.

At the Ruossakero project, a series of anomalous nickel-copper grades were recorded from grab samples taken within a small portion of this reservation, identifying significant areas of similar geology to the known Ruossakero nickel occurrence.

Highly experienced

Incoming CEO Nesbitt is a qualified mining engineer and holds a BSc (Eng) Mining and an MBA, and has more than 25 years of experience in the natural resources sector.

He has held various production and technical roles with De Beers and Goldfields and has carried out a number of feasibility studies across the world with the leading technical consulting group SRK.

Nesbitt is also an experienced investor who previously worked as a partner and portfolio manager for Craton Capital Pty Ltd, a global precious metals fund with in excess of US$400 million of assets under management.

He brings to RMC a rich set of experiences to progress exploration and enhance the value of the company’s project portfolio covering Tanzania and Finland, as well as managing funding programs and overseeing the listed company.

In progress

The Finnish projects are covered by two-year ‘exploration reservations’, valid till May 2024.

These reservations allow completion of initial, non-invasive prospecting work, including mapping, outcrop sampling, soil sampling and geophysics.

RMC has commenced the process to convert the exploration reservations to exploration licences, Pro Active Investors reports.

Where will Europe source its lithium from?

Europe has set ambitious goals to electrify its transportation, with proposed legislation looking to ban all internal combustion engine cars by 2035. The region is behind only China when it comes to electric vehicle sales growth, and the hunt for raw materials to power the batteries these cars need is understandably picking up pace.

Europe currently produces very insignificant amounts of lithium to feed its own needs, and although demand is widely expected to go up, it’s still unclear where the region will find the lithium it requires. In 2032, Europe will make up 25 percent of lithium demand, but on the supply side it will contribute only 4 percent globally, according to Fastmarkets.

“There will be fierce competition for supply in markets such as Australia, Chile, Argentina and Africa,” analysts at the firm said. “Competition that suggests prices will remain high.”

Challenges for lithium miners in Europe

When looking at whether Europe could source lithium domestically, the reality of its geology becomes apparent.

There are very few lithium deposits available in Europe that are viable for mining, Allan Pedersen of Wood Mackenzie told the Investing News Network (INN). “This challenge will be supplemented by the fact that most countries in Europe have limited recent experience in mining, which can make government, environmental and social permitting challenging,” he added.

In Europe, lithium hard-rock mineral deposits are located in Portugal, Czechia, Finland, Germany, Spain and Austria. Significant brine resources also exist in Germany. At present, imports from Australia cover the majority of the EU’s demand for lithium concentrates, while Chile is by far the EU’s largest supplier of refined lithium compounds.

For Jack Bedder, there are several challenges that Europe faces in securing sufficient and stable lithium supply.

“(The) most apparent is the legislation and public opinion to mining that lithium projects must navigate to develop projects of the critical battery material,” the founder and director of Project Blue told INN. “Public and subsequently government opposition to Rio Tinto’s Jadar project in Serbia stalled development at one of Europe’s most advanced projects, a testament to challenges faced more broadly across European jurisdictions.”

Another hurdle is the development of lithium resources that are not yet commercially viable, such as geothermal brines.

“The prospect of lithium production from geothermal brines is an attractive one, as there are benefits to the environmental footprint and co-production of renewable energy which could be achieved,” Bedder said. “The required technologies and processes to commercially recover lithium from geothermal brines, however, remain under development, and further breakthroughs will be required to bring these projects into reality.”

It will also come as no surprise that junior miners in the region have been facing challenges in accessing sufficient financing.

“Competition from lithium projects globally, whether that be South American continental brine operations, Australian spodumene projects or African hard-rock projects, has made a difficult hunting ground for European projects,” Bedder said.

“Government-led investment in other regions has also supported project development for critical minerals, a practise in which the EU has lagged behind other major regions.”

Europe’s strategic partnerships with top-producing countries

Even though Europe doesn’t currently have domestic lithium sources that are able to meet its own demand, the region does have established supply chains — it imports lithium compounds and products from producers in South America in the form of both mineral- and brine-derived materials.

“Further cooperation with major producers in Australia, the Americas and Africa will be critical to feeding European demand growth, though the origin of materials will need to become more diversified to meet volume requirements,” Bedder told INN. “Companies in the US, China, Japan and South Korea are all building supply agreements with lithium producers globally, creating a ‘feedstock frenzy’ and an increasingly competitive global market.”

In Bedder’s opinion, Europe will remain reliant upon imported lithium products in the coming decade, though there is an opportunity for domestic supply to provide some support.

“Multiple projects in European nations are under development, though barriers and challenges must be overcome to progress their development both legislative and financially”, Bedder said.

Increased recycling of lithium-ion batteries to recover lithium, cobalt and nickel is a clear focus for the EU.

“Despite aggressive targets set by the European Commission, recycling in the EU will not provide significant volumes of lithium compounds before 2030,” Bedder added. For the expert, integration of the mining and refining stages of the lithium industry is growing, with many lithium spodumene concentrate producers targeting the production of lithium compounds and cathode intermediate products such as lithium sulfate and phosphate by 2030.

“This will place strain on existing third-party processors, particularly in the Chinese market, which are heavily reliant upon spodumene feedstock from Australia,” he said. “Closer partnerships between resource owners and cathode/battery cell manufacturers are expected as the distance between them in the supply chain shrinks.”

Where can Europe win when it comes to lithium?

Increasing domestic lithium mining may prove difficult, but Europe can still further strengthen its lithium supply chain.

“As Europe will continue to rely on imported feedstocks, the capability to process these compounds into ‘battery-grade’ products suitable for the burgeoning cathode and lithium-ion battery market in Europe will be critical”, Bedder said. “This sector is expected to see significant growth in the coming decade, though strong competition from similar processors in Asia remains.”

The expert added that Europe’s ability to “win” the battle for lithium self-sufficiency remains hinged on technological breakthroughs, along with the creation of a supporting framework in which new mining and processing facilities can operate in a globally competitive industry. For his part, Pedersen believes the largest opportunity for Europe in the short term is in the re-processing of technical-grade or intermediate material imported from other countries.

Wood Mackenzie is forecasting significant new supply in the coming years, with a large proportion being technical grade; this will make raw material available for further processing in Europe.

“However, what needs to be considered is where your customers are in that period”, Pedersen said. “While cathode production is increasing in Europe, the majority is still produced in Asia, so the lithium chemical produced might have to be transported to Asia”, Investing News writes.

Serbia is one of those countries that should be encouraged to exploit lithium

Although Serbia has at least officially abandoned lithium mining, according to the Handelsblat daily, our country is one of those countries that, according to Germany’s plan, should be encouraged to exploit lithium, in order to strengthen European battery production and reduce dependence on China.

It is in question, according to a secret document submitted by Berlin to the European Commission, which lists 20 specific proposals and projects that should start the EU’s “Global Gateway” initiative from a deadlock in response to China’s “Belt and Road” project and infrastructure investments.

And how are things in the European Union when it comes to lithium mines?

Although it is planned to reach zero carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution by 2050, and tens of millions of electric cars will be on the streets by 2030, not a single lithium mine has yet been opened in the European Union. Instead, there are projects that are in the development phase. More precisely, lithium is extracted only in Portugal, but for the needs of ceramics, while the opening of a large mine like the one planned in Serbia is still awaited.

The reasons are expected, namely the negative impact of the mine on the environment.

Barroso Project, Portugal

The Barroso project in Portugal was supposed to be the first large-scale lithium mine in the European Union. It is not known whether it will actually happen. The opening, which was planned several times, was postponed, sometimes for a certain time, and sometimes for an indefinite time.

In 2021, the first temporary permit was obtained after the preliminary environmental impact report. However, it stopped there, because water pollution, energy consumption, steps after digging and crushing were not solved. In addition, the mine is strongly opposed by the local population and environmental associations. Similar to what was seen in Serbia.

However, optimists when it comes to the opening of the mine believe that it could start operating in 2023, since the government gave the “green light” at the beginning of this year. However, the municipalities where the mines are to be opened have announced the initiation of the procedure to ban mining.

It was originally announced that 10 percent of the world’s reserves were located there, but until today the projection was reduced to one percent. The estimated capacity is 27 million metric tons, and the company that wants to mine in Portugal is Savannah resources.

While there is uncertainty about this mine, the Portuguese government has announced that they will not be in a hurry to grant permits for further research when it comes to lithium.

Apart from Portugal, several more lithium mines are planned in the European Union.

Vulcan Project, Germany

After Portugal, about which there is the most data, perhaps the most famous example is in Germany, where work is being done on a project where lithium would be obtained with the help of geothermal energy for the extraction of lithium-rich salt water from the Upper Rhine. The final product lithium hydroxide would then be obtained by electrolysis. That lithium should have a zero point of carbon pollution, however in Germany they want to avoid water pollution as well.

The entire project was conceived as an isolated system where the water would be completely purified and only then released. This is a new approach with obtaining lithium from water, according to the first estimates it pollutes the environment far less than mines.

Research is underway, started in 2021, and this year the State Institute for Geology and Mining determined that the impact of the planned wells on the environment, taking into account their size, scope and intensity of action, cannot be assessed as significant. If everything goes according to plan, the beginning of commercial exploitation is possible from 2025.

The Emily Project, France

The French company Imeris has announced that in 2028 it will start mining a lithium deposit in the Central Massif, which should last 25 years. Since the second half of the 19th century, the site has been home to a quarry that produces 30,000 metric tons of kaolin per year for tile production.

This company states that with 34,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide per year, they would enable around 700,000 electric vehicles to be equipped with lithium ion batteries.

Cinovec, Czech Republic

The Cinovec project, located 100 km from Prague in the Czech Republic, is being implemented by European Metals Holding. It aims to produce nearly 30,000 metric tons of lithium for batteries annually over a period of 25 years.

According to a 2022 feasibility study by European Metals, Cinovec has the potential to become the cheapest lithium rock producer in the world. The ore could produce at $5,000 to $6,000 per metric ton.

It is not yet known whether that will happen, just as it is not known when the mine could start operating. According to their statement, Sinovec is the fourth largest deposit without salt water in the world. With the completion of the investment in April 2020, the project started the work program, but not the production.

An updated Preliminary Feasibility Study (PFS) for the project was completed in June 2019 when the Final Feasibility Study was initiated but not yet complete. This mine is located close to companies that make cars, but also to Tesla’s giga battery factory.

Wolfsberg Project, Austria

European Lithium is developing the Wolfsberg project in Carinthia, 270 km south of Vienna. This mine project plans to mine 10,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide per year.

According to the company, this will equip the batteries of around 200,000 electric vehicles. They hope to achieve an operating rate of 800,000 metric tons per year with a mine life of over 10 years. The company expects to start production in 2025.

Project Keliber, Finland

Finnish mining and battery chemicals company Keliber is currently running a project in western Finland with the goal of reaching production of 15,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide per year starting in 2025. The company also strives for sustainable production.

The lithium they plan to extract will, they say, have a smaller carbon footprint than the competition. This is because the refinery is located 70 km from the mine. More than half of the electricity in the Finnish national grid is produced from renewable energy sources. As a result, the refining process will be more environmentally friendly.

In addition to the above, there are several other projects in Europe that are in the development phase. Also in Serbia, the presence of lithium is being investigated at several other deposits.

As things currently stand, more serious production of lithium in Europe or the European Union will not begin before 2025, when the first shortages of this ore are already being overlooked.

The pressure of industries and large capital will certainly increase, and the rise in the price of lithium, which is expected to increase several times over the next decade, is also certain.

Whether the European Union will succeed in reconciling mining projects with environmental standards or whether it will enter the green transition with potential devastation on its own or surrounding soil, will be seen soon. The European Union certainly needs supply chains that are closer to the Continent, but also, as you can see, supply that is not Chinese.

The European Green Deal from 2020 indicated that some standards regarding environmental protection will be lowered, while the RipauerEU plan ( REPowerEU ), published after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the European Commission additionally prioritized switching to renewable sources as part of efforts to the use of Russian fossil fuels is rapidly reduced.

In any case, we will look at the mix of political, economic and environmental interests with the hope that it is possible to achieve sustainability, N1 writes.

Resource Mining Corporation acquires highly prospective nickel and lithium tenements in Finland

“We are already in early-stage discussions with potential strategic partners for the development of these projects and I look forward to completing this acquisition and finalising those negotiations which will add significant further value to our shareholders”, said executive chair Asimwe Kabunga.

Resource Mining Corporation Ltd (ASX:RMI) has executed a binding term sheet to acquire Element92 Pte Ltd, the owner of three projects in Finland: the Ruossakero Nickel Project in Northern Finland, the Kola Lithium Project in Central Finland, and the Hirvikallio Lithium Project in Southern Finland.

The company completed extensive due diligence activities on the target projects, including acquiring a large volume of historical data on the projects and the commissioning of an external review by Skapto.

Resource Mining Corporation’s executive chair and consultants then confirmed the review’s findings with a site visit that generated new prospective lithium targets on the tenure.

RMI negotiated all-scrip acquisition terms to the tune of 40 million RMI shares at $0.10 per share. The agreement is now subject to execution of formal documentation.

Search begins for strategic partners

“We are excited to have secured agreement to acquire this portfolio of highly prospective nickel and lithium projects in Finland following an extensive due diligence process”, Resource Mining Corporation executive chair Asimwe Kabunga said.

“We are already in early-stage discussions with potential strategic partners for the development of these projects and I look forward to completing this acquisition and finalising those negotiations which will add significant further value to our shareholders.”

The projects sit near other companies’ lithium projects, and are host to historical mines and known lithium pegmatite occurrences, giving RMI confidence in the tenements’ prospectivity, Proactive Investors reports.

Lithium mining projects around Europe

Europe is looking to increase its domestic supply of lithium. Find out which companies are moving ahead with lithium-mining projects in the area.

Europe has set itself ambitious goals in order to become climate-neutral by 2050.

A big part of reaching that objective is the electrification of transportation, and recently proposed legislation sets targets to cut carbon emissions from cars by 55 percent and vans by 50 percent by 2030.

As battery metals investors know, the electric vehicle industry is a key demand driver for essential metals such as lithium — which the European Union included on its critical minerals list for the first time in 2020.

Furthermore, in recent years there has been a push to build out supply chains that are less dependent on Asia, particularly China, with the European Union working to release its Critical Raw Materials Act.

Europe is desperate to increase its domestic supply of lithium, though only a limited number of projects are capable of achieving production in the coming years, Jack Bedder of Project Blue told the Investing News Network.

For Bedder, Europe will have to innovate to significantly reduce its reliance on imported lithium feedstock. “Europe’s ability to ‘win’ the battle for lithium self-sufficiency remains hinged on technological breakthroughs, along with the creation of a supporting framework in which new mining and processing facilities can operate in a globally competitive industry”, he said.

Even though Europe’s lithium supply is quite limited, there are a few companies exploring and developing lithium projects in the region, with the aim of supplying the electric vehicle industry. Here’s a brief overview of some of them listed in alphabetical order.

European Lithium

Company Profile

European Lithium’s Wolfsberg hard-rock lithium deposit in Austria has a positive prefeasibility study. The company is currently working on a definitive feasibility study that is expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2023.

The ASX-listed company, which is aiming to be the first and largest local supplier of lithium hydroxide in the region, holds a non-binding memorandum of understanding with BMW. If a deal is agreed upon, the German carmaker would make an upfront payment of US$15 million for the future supply of lithium hydroxide from Wolfsberg.

The company recently made news headlines when it said it would merge with Sizzle Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company, to create a US-listed company called Critical Metals. European Lithium would be Critical Metals’ biggest shareholder.

European Metals

Company Profile

European Metals’ Cinovec project is said to host the largest lithium resource in Europe. Cinovec, which is located in the Czech Republic, is a hard-rock lithium deposit that is 49 percent owned by European Metals and 51 percent owned by energy group CEZ.

According to a 2022 prefeasibility study, the Cinovec project will have a mine life of 25 years and annual production of 29,386 metric tons (MT) per year of battery grade lithium hydroxide.


Starting in 2028, minerals company Imerys is looking to produce 34,000 MT of lithium hydroxide per year for the next 25 years at an existing mine at Beauvoir in Central France. The company has also recently detected lithium in the British region of Cornwall; Imerys is currently exploring the viability of lithium mining in the region.

Infinity Lithium

Company Profile

The San Jose deposit in Spain is 75 percent owned by Australia’s Infinity Lithium. The company, which published an underground mine scoping study in 2022, will mine the hard-rock mica resource and develop processing facilities. Infinity Lithium also kicked off the mining license and environmental impact assessment process this year.


Keliber holds several advanced lithium deposits in Finland’s Central Ostrobothnian area.

The privately held company’s lithium project is comprised of five mines, the spodumene concentrator area at Päiväneva, the lithium chemical plant at the Kokkola Industrial Park and auxiliary facilities at all sites. The company is aiming to reach production capacity of 15,000 MT of lithium hydroxide per year starting in 2025.

Keliber is majority owned by Sibanye-Stillwater, which upped its stake in the company earlier this year to 84.96 percent. State-owned company Finnish Minerals Group, alongside other minority shareholders, holds the remainder.

Rio Tinto

Company Profile

Seasoned lithium investors will have heard of the Jadar lithium-borate deposit in Serbia, a massive deposit where lithium is hosted by the previously unknown borosilicate mineral jadarite. Major miner Rio Tinto has invested and committed more than US$450 million to the project to date, but has faced massive environmental protests, leading the Serbian government to block the project.

Savannah Resources

Company Profile

Savannah Resources is working on the Mina do Barroso hard-rock lithium project in Northern Portugal. The asset, which is considered one of Europe’s biggest lithium projects, was awarded a 30 year mining lease in 2006, and has a three block mining lease application.

The company has faced opposition from environmental and community groups. Savannah Resources has been required to resubmit its environmental impact assessment, which is expected to happen in the first quarter of 2023.

Vulcan Energy Resources

Company Profile

Vulcan Energy Resources says its combined geothermal energy and lithium resource is the largest in Europe, with license areas in the Upper Rhine Valley in Germany and Italy. It is developing its zero-carbon project with the aim of decarbonizing lithium production.

Vulcan has signed deals with Stellantis, Renault, Umicore and South Korea’s LG Chem.

Zinnwald Lithium

Company Profile

After acquiring Deutsche Lithium in 2021, Zinnwald Lithium is now the sole owner of the Zinnwald deposit in Zinnwald-Georgenfeld, located on the eastern side of Germany near the border with Czechia.

The Zinnwald deposit is a late-stage development project with an approved 30 year mining license. The company is currently working to update its environmental impact assessment, Investing News writes.

Serbia, Entire country needs to be blocked if Rio Tinto continues its lithium project

Member of parliament Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta from the Together party accused the government that it sold Serbia’s natural resources to foreigners and called on environmentalist organizations and the population to revolt against mining projects. “We will not let that happen peacefully,” he stressed and threatened that the central Gazela bridge in Belgrade would be blocked together with the entire country if Rio Tinto continues with its lithium project.

The new Government of Serbia is facing discontent among environmental activists and the local population about mining projects just like the former cabinet of Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, but the difference is that now they also have representatives in the National Assembly. Head of the parliamentary Environmental Protection Committee and copresident of the Together (Zajedno) party Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta said the committee’s next meeting would be held in Loznica.

Rio Tinto is still working on its project for lithium mining and processing in the area in western Serbia even though the government formally halted it in January.

The National Assembly still didn’t fulfill its legal obligation to schedule a debate on the people’s initiative to permanently ban lithium exploration and exploitation, Jovanović pointed out

Ahead of the vote on the appointment of the new government, Jovanović called other lawmakers and ministers to also come to the meeting and explain why the company still has an office in the village of Gornje Nedeljice in the territory of the city of Loznica. Furthermore, he pointed out that the National Assembly still didn’t fulfill its legal obligation to schedule a debate on the so-called people’s initiative to permanently ban lithium exploration and exploitation. The petition was signed by 40,000 people, said the top official from the green left Together party.

Jovanović, one of the leaders of protests held in the past two years against Rio Tinto’s Jadar project, accused the government that it is working for foreign interests. “Serbia is an ecological time bomb. You gave the Russians our gas and oil. To the Chinese you gave our copper and gold. Now another predator needs to be appeased, and its name is Rio Tinto. There are more than 50 mines in the new spatial plan”, he stated.

Moreover, exploration was approved for 70 potential gold mines and more than 60 lithium mines, Jovanović asserted.

Serbia is an ecological time bomb, the head of the parliamentary Environmental Protection Committee warned

“That is 15% of our territory. Well, do you think we will peacefully watch how your foreign pals plunder our gold, our lithium and our natural resources? And you plan to let peasants become environmental refugees. I am calling on all environmentalist organizations, all citizens. There is a keyword for 2022, namely revolt. We will not let that happen peacefully”, he threatened. Jovanović claimed that the Gazela bridge on the highway in central Belgrade would be blocked again, together with entire Serbia, if Rio Tinto continues with its project, Balkan Green Energy News reports.

Europe is looking to enter the race for lithium

Lithium is the essential resource for developing a sustainable electric vehicle industry in Europe. Until now, this resource has mainly been produced in Australia, Chile, and China. Europe is looking to enter the race for this white gold and is betting on several deposits in its soil. We’ve put together a list below of the 6 main European mines that will be exploited in the coming years.

Lithium is a white powder that is essential for the manufacture of electric car batteries. In 2021, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), global production is close to 100,000 metric tons, a figure 20% higher than in 2020. Global consumption in 2021 is estimated to be 93,000 metric tons. This is due to strong growth in global demand, particularly because of the accelerated production of EV batteries required for the energy transition.

This alkaline metal allows electrons to flow between a positive and a negative electrode, both of which are immersed in an ionic conducting liquid (the electrolyte).

When a lithium-ion battery is used, for example to power an electric car, the electrons accumulated in the negative electrode are released and reach the positive electrode. The opposite happens when the battery is being charged. Without lithium, batteries could not power a device and then recharge.

There are two types of lithium that can be used in batteries: lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide. Currently, the demand for lithium hydroxide for batteries is increasing and could exceed the demand for lithium carbonate by 2030. Lithium hydroxide is currently priced at around US$35,000 a metric ton. Lithium carbonate is around US$ 59,900 a metric ton.

The problem with this precious metal is that it is found in a few places on earth. The main producers are Australia (55%), Chile (26%), China (14%), and Argentina (6%). China is the leading lithium refiner.

Reducing Europe’s Dependence

This means that Europe has no choice today but to import almost all the lithium it consumes. According to forecasts, at least 30 million zero-emission electric vehicles will be on the roads of the EU by 2030. Thermal vehicles will be banned in Europe in 2035. By 2030, Europe aims to produce 25% of the world’s batteries (compared to 3% in 2020) in its numerous production plants currently under construction.

The EU should therefore see its lithium consumption explode in the coming years. Some estimates predict a 20-fold increase between 2020 and 2030.

In a tweet, Ursula von der Leyen warned that Europe must get rid of its dependence on the outside world, especially China. She believes the continent must put in place an industrial strategy not only for lithium but for all the other rare earth elements found in batteries such as nickel, cobalt, or graphite.

Europe has already entered the race for the new white gold and is seeking to develop its own lithium mining industry. The USGS estimates probable European resources at 7% of the world total. The number of mining projects has increased in recent years in several European countries.

Here is a tour of Europe’s main projects and the companies behind them. These projects could eventually cover 80% of European battery needs.

1/ Portugal

The Barroso Project, Savannah Resources

Portugal has the largest reserve of lithium in Europe with around 60,000 metric tons of known reserves, according to the USGS. But until now, Portuguese lithium has mainly been used in the ceramics industry to make glassware. The country is just now entering the race for the new white gold.

British company Savannah Resources has ambitions to exploit the Barroso mine in the north of the country, which is rich in spodumene, a form of hard rock lithium.

According to Savannah Resources, the mine could contain 27 million metric tons of lithium, including over 285,900 metric tons of lithium oxide. According to the company, this is enough to meet the demand in Europe over the next few decades.

The group is waiting for the green light from the Portuguese authorities to start production as the project is facing strong local opposition. If opened in 2023, the Mina do Barroso open-pit mine will become the first major producer of lithium in Europe.

2/ Germany

The Vulcan Project, Vulcan Energy

Australian company Vulcan Energy is currently working on a pilot project in the Upper Rhine Valley in Germany. The idea is to produce “zero-carbon” green lithium by using geothermal energy to extract lithium-rich brine from the Upper Rhine. The final lithium hydroxide will then be created by electrolysis.

The company says they were able to produce 57.1% lithium hydroxide, surpassing the 56.5% battery grade specifications usually required.

The Vulcan pilot plant in Germany has been operating since April 2021 and is expected to launch commercial production in 2025.

3/ France

The EMILI Project, Imerys

French company Imerys recently announced that it will start mining a lithium deposit in the Massif Central (in the Allier department) in 2028.

Since the second half of the 19th century, the site has been home to a quarry producing 30,000 metric tons of kaolin per year for tile production.

According to Alessandro Dazza, CEO of Imerys, the deposit contains one million metric tons of lithium oxide. This would be enough to produce, according to the company, “34,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide per year from 2028 over 25 years.” This would enable approximately 700,000 electric vehicles to be equipped with lithium-ion batteries.

4/ Czech Republic

The Cinovec Project, European Metals Holding

The Cinovec project, located 100 km from Prague in the Czech Republic, is being carried out by European Metals Holding. It aims to produce nearly 30,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium per year over a period of 25 years.

According to European Metals’ 2022 pre-feasibility study, Cinovec has the potential to become the producer of the lowest-cost hard rock lithium in the world. The mine could produce at a cost of US$5,000 to US$6,000 per metric ton.

5/ Austria

The Wolfsberg Project, European Lithium

European Lithium is developing the Wolfsberg Project in Carinthia, 270 km south of Vienna, in Austria. Located in the heart of Europe, this mine project plans to extract 10,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide per year.

According to the company, this will equip the batteries of approximately 200,000 electric vehicles. They hope to achieve an operating rate of 800,000 metric tons per year with a mine life of over ten years.

The company expects to begin production in 2025.

6/ Finland

The Keliber Project, Keliber Oy

Finnish company Keliber Oy, specializing in mining and battery chemicals, is currently running a project in western Finland with the objective of reaching the production of 15,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide per year beginning in 2025.

The company is also aiming for sustainable production. The lithium they plan to extract will, they say, have a smaller carbon footprint than the competition. This is because the refinery plant is located 70 km from the mine. In addition to this, more than half of the electricity in the Finnish national grid is generated from renewable energy sources. As a result, the refining process will be more environmentally friendly.

The Finnish potential has attracted the attention of investors. South African mining giant Sibanye-Stillwater intends to acquire a majority stake in Keliber Oy.

Future Challenges

The enthusiasm for lithium mining in Europe is not unanimous, however. In Serbia, the Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto stopped its project in the southwest of the country due to local opposition.

In the future, the most important challenge for Europe will be to find ways to accommodate mining projects and environmental and social standards. As can be seen, the European lithium extraction projects that are listed above will not be operational until 2025. But the demand for gigafactories is already here. Swedish company Northvolt has already opened Europe’s first battery gigafactory, Direct Industry writes.