Eramet obtained the lithium from brine at the Rittershoffen geothermal power plant operated by Electricite de Strasbourg (ES) near Germany in tests conducted in early 2021, the companies said in a joint statement.
“This is a world first for lithium,” they said.
The pilot project is part of the European Geothermal Lithium Brine (EuGeLi) project, in which the German chemical group BASF is also participating.
The project aims by the end of this year to have intensified the extraction to produce lithium carbonate, a component of lithium-ion batteries, and to be able to assess the economic potential of geothermal lithium extraction. , said Eramet and ES.
The European Union last year added lithium to its list of critical raw materials as essential for a transition to electric vehicles and energy storage.
The Upper Rhine Valley, along the Franco-German border, has also aroused the interest of German electricity and mining companies, keen to exploit the area’s significant geothermal lithium resources to supply an electric car sector in booming.
Outside of Europe, the Canadian company Standard Lithium is testing the extraction of lithium from brine which is a by-product of the bromine production facilities operated by the German company Lanxess in the US state of Arkansas.
Eramet said it had adapted a process developed for a lithium deposit it owns in Argentina to make it suitable for hot brine.
The mining group suspended its Argentinian project a year ago, citing economic uncertainty linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as instability in Argentina.