Weardale Lithium lodges plans for major facility

Weardale Lithium has officially submitted plans for its lithium extraction plant, which could create more than 100 jobs.

The natural resources development company has lodged an application for the facility on a former cement works at Eastgate, near Stanhope.

Built in a phased approach, the site will process geothermal groundwater from existing deep, high specification, production wells nearby and forms part of a plan for regeneration of the old works site.

The groundwaters will be transported from well-sites via carefully located pipelines, negating the need for tanker journeys on minor roads, to the pilot plant. This will enable the pilot plant to operate with continuous flow at significant flowrates.

Once complete, the plant will be one of the most advanced in Europe, with the potential to produce about 10,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate over the next four years.

Initially, it is estimated the development will create 20 to 50 on site jobs plus additional employment within the local construction sector and supply chains.

Once it is scaled up to full commercial production, about 125 jobs could be generated, alongside an estimated £1bn of gross economic value for the North East region.

The application for the pilot plant follows more than three years of work in the area including trialling of multiple Direct Lithium Extraction technologies to find the optimal way to extract lithium from the geothermal groundwaters.

Stewart Dickson, chief executive of Weardale Lithium, said: “This application for a pilot processing plant adjacent to existing wells is the next significant step towards establishing a facility for domestic lithium production from naturally occurring geothermal groundwaters in the North East.

“The development, if approved, will represent a multi-million pound investment in Weardale and generate highly skilled jobs vital to the energy transition. This transition requires a significant amount of critical minerals such as lithium. By developing this project, the UK can move towards secure, domestic and fully traceable supply.

“We have long signalled our intent to re-develop the site at Eastgate and breathe new life into the derelict former industrial site, which, if our application is successful, will become a focal point for the UK lithium industry together with green energies and technologies co-located. We have been pleased to receive very positive responses from the local communities and parish councils during our consultation phases and look forward to working together to make this future facing project a reality.”