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Proposed lithium extraction plant advances in County Durham, UK

Weardale Lithium Limited, a natural resources company based in County Durham, UK, has recently filed a planning application with Durham County Council. This application is for the phased construction of a lithium extraction plant in Weardale, County Durham. The proposed facility will be situated on the former cement works site at Eastgate near Stanhope.

The plant’s location on a brownfield site aligns with the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Additionally, the project aims to regenerate the old works site to meet the highest environmental and safety standards. Prior to submitting the planning application, Weardale Lithium engaged in a thorough local consultation process to gather input from residents and stakeholders. The feedback received was largely supportive of the development, recognizing the importance of critical minerals processing for the energy transition.

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The extraction plant will utilize geothermal groundwater from existing production wells in the vicinity. This groundwater will be transported to the plant via pipelines, eliminating the need for tanker journeys on local roads. Once operational, the plant is expected to be one of the most advanced lithium extraction facilities in Europe. Furthermore, the site offers potential for scaling up production and accommodating other green technologies and business opportunities.

The project holds promise for job creation in the region, with estimates suggesting initial employment of 20 to 50 on-site jobs, along with additional opportunities in the construction sector and supply chains. As the project scales up to full commercial production over the next few years, it could generate approximately 125 jobs and contribute significantly to the regional economy.

The Eastgate site has remained dormant for over two decades following the closure of the cement works, resulting in a loss of jobs in the area. Weardale Lithium sees the redevelopment of this brownfield site as a sustainable solution that avoids unnecessary greenfield development.

The planning application follows extensive research and development efforts, including trials of Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technologies. Weardale Lithium was the first company to successfully extract lithium from geothermal groundwaters in the North Pennine Orefield. DLE is considered a low-impact and low-carbon method of lithium extraction, aligning with the company’s commitment to sustainability.

The planning application includes comprehensive assessments covering ecological impact, biodiversity, noise, air quality, highways, landscape, heritage, groundwater, surface water, and flood risk. Stewart Dickson, CEO of Weardale Lithium, expressed optimism about the project, highlighting its potential to support the UK’s energy transition and create a focal point for the domestic lithium industry.

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