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Sourcing Two Products from One Stone: Co-Producing Lithium and Kaolin from Cornwall’s Granite Reserves

The UK’s ambition to be at the forefront of battery and electric vehicle production faces a key hurdle – the reliance on imports of lithium and other critical raw materials. A new project undertaken by Imerys, Cornish Lithium, and HSSMI, aims to explore the possibilities for sourcing lithium in the UK.


Sourcing Two Products from One Stone: Co-Producing Lithium and Kaolin from Cornwall’s Granite Reserves f
Image: © Tim / Adobe Stock

The project partners have identified that lithium mica can be extracted from decomposed granite, which is abundantly present in Cornwall and used for the extraction of china clay (or kaolin). The Cornish kaolin industry is over 200 years old and has been in operation since the mineral was first discovered. Kaolin today finds its way into many applications such as paints, coatings, plastics, ceramics, rubber, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

This new project aims to evaluate the economic viability of extracting lithium from minerals that occur in the same rock as kaolin, thus at the same time making kaolin even more competitive on the global market whilst establishing a steady domestic supply of lithium that is vital to the transition away from fossil fuels and towards a zero-carbon economy, due to its use in lithium-ion battery technologies.

An understanding of lithium extraction techniques from source rocks is still being developed and will be strengthened as a result of this project, which will evaluate newly available extraction technologies and explore the potential for new business models for the kaolin industry. Above all, it will define whether it is commercially feasible to co-produce lithium alongside kaolin.

The opportunity to produce lithium from minerals found in kaolin will help build a circular economy by reducing waste and generating additional revenue. Moreover, if successful, this project would protect existing jobs and create opportunities for new highly skilled employment in the region. It would also create a vertically integrated UK battery supply chain for the automotive and transport sectors, benefiting the wider British economy, increasing supply independence and securing the presence of vital industries here in the UK.

The Role of HSSMI

For HSSMI, this project represents an opportunity to leverage existing knowledge on the electric vehicle battery supply chain, work within the extractive industry and develop the Circular Economy team’s offerings related to circular business models and industrial symbiosis.

HSSMI will conduct life cycle assessments (LCAs) to assess overall carbon footprint and the potential to reduce emissions. HSSMI will also conduct facility design analysis to assess viability of auxiliary facilities for battery supply chain activities.

For further information, contact Project lead Steve Massey at or Project dissemination lead Zane Mezdreija at


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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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e2e Total Loss Vehicle Management [e2e] is the UK’s only salvage and automotive recycling network with nationwide, environmentally compliant sites delivering performance resilience and service reliability to the insurance and fleet markets.  The network’s online salvage auction drives strong salvage resale values and faster sales.  e2e’s salvage clients have access to the network’s stocks of over 5 million quality graded, warranty assured reclaimed parts. 

The power of the network model means e2e has the ability to influence industry standards and is committed to continually raising the bar whilst redefining the role and perceived value of the salvage operator.  Network members adhere to robust service level agreements, against which they are audited, in order to ensure performance consistency and a market leading customer experience.  

The salvage and recycling operating environment is evolving rapidly, and e2e is anticipating, listening and responding to changing market needs.  Regulatory compliance, ESG, reclaimed parts, customer experience, EVs, new vehicle technologies, data and reputation risk are just some of many considerations linked to the procurement of salvage services.  e2e will drive further added value to clients and members through the adoption and application of emerging technologies, continuing to differentiate its proposition and position salvage services as a professional partnership. 

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