As electric cars are gaining ground in the automotive industry, some metals and elements have become increasingly in demand. One of the most used and needed is lithium, essential for the manufacture of batteries. In Germany they are in luck, they claim to have thousands and thousands of tons of lithium under the Rhine river valley.
According to a recent announcement, significant lithium deposits have been discovered under the Rhine River in southern Germany, in the Upper Rhine Valley. The area is about 300 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide, and underneath it? tons and tons of lithium.
The lithium is in a molten state and is trapped inside subway boiling water springs thousands of meters below the Rhine River. If estimates of the size of the lithium deposit are accurate, it would be one of the largest deposits in the world.
Vulcan Energy, one of the companies involved, plans to invest around €1.7 billion to build the facilities needed to extract the lithium. The problem? Possible opposition from locals and the impact on the environment. Lithium mining often takes place in unpopulated areas such as in the middle of Australia or in South America.
According to Vulcan Energy’s estimates, they will be able to extract a total of 15,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year at two locations in the area by 2024. By 2025 and beyond they believe that extraction could rise to 40,000 tons per year with three additional locations.
This operation could position Germany as one of the world’s leading suppliers of lithium. A particularly precious material in recent years and one that has often been difficult for automakers to obtain, thus increasing the final price of the vehicle for the consumer.
Southwest Germany is also home to Germany’s automotive industry. Right now they are especially dependent on imported lithium, this lithium deposit would mean greater independence for German manufacturers. We may also see more of our own production in Europe, such as the first factory in Spain or Tesla’s interest in mining its own lithium.
Currently the problem with lithium is the volatility of its price due to bottlenecks in the production chain or the excess supply or demand that can occur. A new deposit of such a size as the one in Germany could stabilize things a bit more, especially in the European market.