The push to move Britain from petrol and diesel vehicles to electric has taken a big step forward with confirmation of the first lithium refinery to be established in the UK.
Lithium is essential for electric vehicles because the batteries they need are made from the mineral, but in recent years there have been global concerns that the lithium refining sector has been dominated by China.
However, Green Lithium has now gained planning permission for its refinery to be built at the Teesport in Middlesbrough, with the landmark move being announced by business secretary Grant Shapps on a visit to the site. The government helped fund the firm with a £600,000 grant through the Automotive Transformation Fund.
With more lithium refined in the UK, it will be easier for gigafactories in this country to secure a reliable supply of the material, free of any logistical or geopolitical considerations.
That also means now could be a great time to go on electrical training courses as a booming electric vehicle industry in the UK will help increase the number of such cars on the road. But for this to happen successfully, the other part of the equation is having more vehicle charging points – and skilled workers to install and maintain them.
Green Lithium is not the only firm planning a refinery at the Tees Port. Tees Valley Lithium has similar plans and is eyeing up a site at the Wilton Internationals chemical plant.
Tees Valley Lithium may also be able to source some if the lithium locally, having reached a deal with Weardale Lithium if the latter form is successful in managing to extract substantial quantities of the metal from brines under the Weardale granite in County Durham.
Other likely sources of lithium in the UK include Cornwall, where Cornish Lithium is seeking to establish a plant.