A lithium mining facility that would be the first of its kind in Europe could put Cornwall truly at the centre of a major new industry.

Cornish Lithium, which has its headquarters at Tremough Innovation Centre in Penryn, is seeking approval for a development and research facility at the former Trelavour china clay pit at St Dennis, near St Austell, where the company is exploring the potential for lithium production.

The UK-based mineral exploration and development company is focused on the exploration and sustainable extraction of lithium, which is a key constituent of batteries for electric cars and renewable energy systems, and is seen as key to the the UK’s transition to clean energy.

Cornish Lithium's Trelavour Hard Rock Lithium Project was set up in 2019, as the chemical element is contained within the mica minerals of the Nanpean ‘Topaz G5’ granite found in the area.

The results from the drilling programmes at the site will help the company to progress the project to feasibility study stage during 2024.

To help achieve this, Cornish Lithium plans to develop a Lithium Hydroxide Demonstration Facility at the former Trelavour Dryers site, now known as TreLith, near St Dennis.

The facility would assure the company, the community, the Environment Agency, Cornwall Council and investors that it will be possible to safely and economically produce the vital lithium hydroxide component of batteries.

The demonstration facility would allow material from Trelavour Pit to be continuously processed, tested and refined to achieve optimal yields.

A planning statement by Cornish Lithium says: “The reduced scale of the facility will afford the opportunity for cost-effective adjustments to the engineering design and performance.”

There are no equivalent processes in the UK or Europe. The Demonstration Plant will be fed with ore that has been previously crushed off-site. Material will be stockpiled at the pit and transported by road and in bulk bags to the facility as required.

Cornish Lithium is hoping to build the plant between February and May 2024, with the demonstration campaigns running through to 2025.

It is the company’s intention to expand its programme of engagement before construction to ensure the local community are aware of progress and are kept informed. A number of public engagement events have already been held in the St Dennis area.

You can see more information on the Cornwall Council's planning portal, via its website, under application reference PA23/09395.

All planning applications submitted to the council have to be validated and are available for inspection by the public. Anyone is also allowed to submit comments about the applications – whether in support or objection.

You can see public notices in your area, including alcohol licensing, probate and good vehicle licences via the Public Notice Portal: https://publicnoticeportal.uk/falmouth-penryn-packet

The majority of planning applications to Cornwall Council are decided by planning officers at the council under delegated powers. However, some applications will go before elected councillors who sit on planning committees.

No date has been set for when this planning application will be determined.