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New project to find Europe’s green technology metals

A new four-year project ‘GREENPEG’ has received a grant of €8.3 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to develop new techniques to explore for pegmatite rocks containing lithium and other green technology metals.

The consortium consists of 13 partners from 8 European countries, including universities and exploration and mining companies. The University of Exeter team, which will receive nearly €780k, is led by Ben Williamson with Frances Wall, Camborne School of Mines and Xiaoyu Yan, Engineering, supported by post-doctoral researchers Kate Smith and Rob Pell.

Professor Ben Williamson, Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter, said: “This is an exciting project and an excellent opportunity to continue state of the art research and innovation with our European colleagues.  We will be contributing our geological knowledge of pegmatites, and our environmental expertise, particularly in the technique of life cycle assessment“.

Pegmatite-hosted deposits can be particularly rich in technology metals, such as lithium, but are often small and difficult to find using conventional exploration methods. Europe contains an abundance of pegmatites but very few are currently economic to mine.

The GREENPEG project will develop exploration toolsets for European pegmatite ore deposits. These will be specific to either lithium-caesium-tantalum-, or niobium-yttrium-fluorine-bearing pegmatites, which may also carry high-purity quartz. These raw materials are used in the manufacture of a wide range of green energy devices such as Li-ion batteries for electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines.

It is critical that Europe can source its own supplies of these commodities to meet ambitious 2030 energy and climate targets. The toolsets will be developed at three green and brownfield exploration and mining case study sites at Wolfsberg (Austria), South Leinster (Ireland) and Tysfjord (Norway) where industry partners can immediately benefit from the research.

GREENPEG will integrate its new products and services into associated businesses, attract investment into the European raw materials sector and increase the competitiveness of European green technology metals exploration companies.

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Date: 22 October 2020