Alsace, a veritable lithium mine coveted by foreigners

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An Australian startup is interested in the Alsatian subsoil. The reason? It would be possible to extract Lithium, essential for the manufacture of batteries.

Alsace, a veritable lithium mine coveted by foreigners

You have no doubt noticed that there has been a lot of talk, really a lot about lithium in recent years. This element is indeed at the heart of the technology of rechargeable batteries in electric cars, smartphones, tablets, headphones, and other portable computers or industrial energy storage plants.

We find more of it than lead, for example which is not particularly rare: it is quite simply the 33rd most abundant element on Earth. This does not mean that it is always easy to extract.

Alsace contains a real treasure in its subsoil

Because of its properties, and its high reactivity, it is found in the overwhelming majority of cases as an impurity in other compounds such as lithium chloride (in brines from some old continental salt lakes ). But also in silicates such as spodumene, petalite and pegmalite.

Or in a kind of clay called hectorite resulting from the alteration of certain volcanic rocks, rhassoul, Moroccan clay rich in stevensite and lithium, or in jadarite, a compound of the borate family. Therefore, despite its high abundance, there are ultimately quite a few places on Earth where the extraction of ore with a high lithium content and its transformation into metal is sufficiently profitable.

This which pushes many countries including France to carry out campaigns in search of viable deposits. Currently, the world's largest deposit (soon to be exploited) is in Bolivia (Salar d’Uyuni): it would contain up to a third of the world's reserves. There is also the Salar de Atacama in Chile, one of the first sources of Lithium in the world with since 1997, with deposits in China. Another major ore reserve, the Salar del Hombre Muerto in Argentina.

France, soon to be an exporting country?

Western Australia has also large deposits of pegmatite at the Greenbushes and Mount Cattlin mines. They are also found in Russia, in dry lakes in Tibet, in the United States and in Zimbabwe. Europe would be relatively badly endowed in deposits, but according to a study by the French Bureau of Geological and Mining Research, France would be rather lucky with important deposits in the Massif Central, but also in geothermal brines in Alsace.

According to their initial conclusions, the country could become largely self-sufficient in Lithium, with production exceeding 200,000 tonnes of metal per year. Lithium from Franceis particularly interested in Alsatian deposits. And apparently, the region's subsoil potential is beginning to attract foreign firms. This is the case of the Australian startup Vulcan Energy which has just announced its intention to set up in the region.

Vulcan Energy is the figurehead of the largest European lithium extraction project. The firm now counts among its investors big names from the old continent, such as Renault, Stellantis and Volkswagen. A first application for an operating license has been submitted for an area of ​​155 km2 east of Haguenau in Bas-Rhin. And since then, requests for permits have multiplied in Alsace.

According to the startup, by exploiting the geothermal waters of the region it would be possible to extract the precious metal using a neutral method in terms of carbon emissions. A tremendous hope for the country and for the energy transition.