Friday, 18 August 2017

Talk of Cornish lithium and hot rocks

Last night's monthly Cornish Mining Sundowner was held, for the first time, at The 'Front pub, by Falmouth's inner harbour. There were many familiar old faces, mainly past CSM students, who had travelled down to Cornwall for the funeral on Wednesday of former CSM Director Prof Keith Atkinson (posting of 6th August) in the tiny village of St. Mawgan. There was also a welcome guest, Paul Moore, editor of International Mining, a media partner for MEI Conferences, who is on holiday in Falmouth with his family.
With Paul Moore of International Mining
Amongst the chat last night was the news that Cornish Lithium has secured 1 million pounds ($1.30 million) to explore for lithium in Cornwall, taking the UK a step closer to a domestic source of the strategic mineral, which will play a huge part in the electric car revolution. There was much talk of this at the sundowner in January (posting of 20 January 2017), when Cornish Lithium said it had reached a mineral rights agreement with Canada's Strongbow Exploration, who are looking at the reopening of the South Crofty tin mine, leading to a hoped for revival in metal mining in Cornwall, once the world's largest producer of tin and copper.
Evaporation plays a major part in treatment of lithium brines, but new technology  is helping to make other options more viable. However the development of geothermal energy in Cornwall might also contribute to an evaporation option. The United Downs Deep Geothermal Project, operated by Geothermal Energy Ltd, close to the proposed lithium deposits, is seeking to produce energy by drilling deep into Cornish granite, which naturally produces heat. The pioneering project to produce power from hot rocks several kilometres under the ground in Cornwall will begin drilling early next year, if a multimillion-pound fundraising drive succeeds. Cornwall’s extensive granite means it has long been seen as the most promising part of the UK for the technology, which one study found could provide a fifth of the country’s power, which would be a welcome addition to the extra electrical energy needed when the electric car revolution really takes off. If all goes as planned, the Cornish operation could be operational in 2020. The amount of power the wells are expected to produce will be small, at a capacity of 1-3 megawatts (enough to power 1,500-4,500 homes), similar to a single onshore wind turbine, but geothermal has one big advantage: unlike wind and solar, it can provide constant power if needed.
Geothermal Engineering Ltd is in partnership with Geoscience Ltd, founded in 1985 by my old Camborne School of Mines colleague Dr. Tony Batchelor, as a spin-off from the Hot Dry Rock geothermal research project run by Camborne School of Mines. That project, based at Rosemanowes Quarry near Penryn, developed techniques for the creation of artificial geothermal reservoirs that have been applied around the world.  Iceland is the world leader in geothermal power (posting of 22 January 2015), where deep holes are drilled to reach hot rocks, water is pumped down, heated and returned to the surface to generate electricity or provide heating.
Tony Batchelor (centre) with CSM mining graduates
Stuart Daveridge (1992) and Stephen Lovelock (2017)
There was also talk last night of an exciting new collaborative initiative between Camborne School of Mines and Canada's University of British Columbia, whereby CSM undergraduate students will spend time in Canada studying mineral processing, and UBC students at Camborne studying mining. I look forward to hearing more on this.

CSM Association Secretary Claire Yelland, former secretary Linda Shimmield, and Barbara Wills
Twitter @barrywills

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