Germany may look to mine an area thousands of meters below the Rhine river that is believed to be one of the world’s biggest deposits of lithium.
Geologists believe that the area of the Upper-Rhine Valley in the Black Forest area of southwestern Germany has enough lithium for more than 400 million electric vehicles. German-Australian start-up Vulcan Energy Resources believes the deposit can reduce the German car industry’s reliance on imported lithium and wants to built five power stations in the area.
“The lithium deposit we’re talking about here is gigantic and its properties are ideal for our goal of producing high-quality lithium on a large industrial scale in Germany,” Vulcan Energy Resources co-founder Horst Kreuter told Reuters.
Kreuter added that the company plans to invest €1.7 billion ($2 billion) to build geothermal stations and facilities that will extract the lithium. The company claims that it would be extracting up to 15,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year at two sites by 2024. From 2025 onwards, a second phase of extraction could see it achieve an output of 40,000 tons per year at three additional sites.
The European Union has estimated that the region will need 18 times more lithium by 2030 than today and 60 times more by 2050. Most of the lithium imported into Europe comes from remote Australia and the deserts of South America where the lithium is produced by the evaporation of salt flats. Portugal is the biggest lithium producer in Europe but most of its lithium is sold to the ceramics industry.