Banks Mining ends four-year coal fight at Highthorn
Mining bosses have conceded defeat over plans to dig for coal in Northumberland after the government last month rejected a Banks Mining scheme at Highthorn, near Druridge Bay, for a second time.
According to a report by Chronicle Live, the company will not challenge the decision.
The company said the mine would create at least 100 well-paid, full-time jobs, resulting in investment of around £100 million into the Northumberland economy and see supply chain contracts worth a total of £48 million to locally based businesses. But environmental campaigners said it would harm the local environment and worsen climate change.
Plans were approved by a planning inspector and then rejected by then Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. Banks Mining then won a High Court bid to challenge that decision, which was rejected in September.
In a statement issued on behalf of Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, the decision to reject the plans was explained as being due to the "substantial extent of the landscape harm means that the proposal is still not environmentally acceptable, nor can it be made so by planning conditions or obligations".
Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, says: "In order to build back better, we need something to build with! We remain firm in our conviction that, while British industry still needs essential minerals like coal, fireclay, and brick shale, they should be mined in the UK in the most environmentally responsible way possible.
“However, having carefully considered the Secretary of State’s purely political and deeply disappointing decision to reject our Highthorn planning application, we have concluded that issuing a challenge to it would not be the right course of action.
“This has been a difficult conclusion for us to reach as we are hugely proud of the exemplary work of our highly-skilled team, know that there will be substantial domestic demand for these minerals for many years to come and are only too aware of the impact that the Secretary of State’s misguided decision will have on many lives and businesses across our region."
Although it has decided not to take its case for Highthorn any further, Banks Mining has reaffirmed its commitment to pursuing the proposed Dewley Hill surface mine to the west of Newcastle, which is expected to come before the city council’s planning committee before the end of the year, the report adds.
Styles said: “We hear a great deal of Government talk about ‘levelling up’ the regional economy, but it is the likes of ourselves and other North East employers that actually take the responsibility for creating the jobs that are central to achieving this goal, and we hope Newcastle City Council will support our continuing job creation ambitions at Dewley Hill."
Lithium producers bullish as EV revolution ramps demand
Rising demand for lithium is stoking prices for the electric vehicle battery metal, fueling long-delayed expansions that still may not produce adequate supplies that automakers need to meet aggressive production plans.
Growing industry optimism from higher lithium prices is a change from last year when funding for mines and processing plants dried up during the pandemic.
Albemarle Corp, Livent Corp and other producers are scrambling to make more lithium, but some analysts worry the recent price jump will not spur a big enough expansion to meet a planned wave of new EV models by mid-decade.
Since January, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation Co, along with other automakers and battery parts manufacturers, have said they will spend billions of dollars on EV plants.
U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed spending $174bn to boost EV sales and infrastructure. The European Union has similar plans, part of a rush to catch up with global EV leader China.
Those moves have helped an index of lithium prices jump 59 percent since April 2020, according to data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a commodity pricing provider.
The rising demand “reflects what feels like a real and fundamental turning point in our industry,” said Paul Graves, chief executive of Livent Corp, which supplies Tesla Inc. On Monday, it said it would more than double its annual lithium production to 115,000 tonnes.
Graves warned, though, that “it will be a challenge for the lithium industry to produce sufficient qualified material in the near and medium term.”
Albemarle, the world’s largest lithium producer, aims to double its production capacity to 175,000 tonnes by the end of the year when two construction projects are complete. Albemarle's Q1 profit beat expectations thanks to rising lithium prices. Chile’s SQM, the No. 2 producer, said its goal to expand production of lithium carbonate by 71 percent to 120,000 tonnes should be complete by December.
Australia’s Orocobre is paying $1.4 billion for smaller rival Galaxy Resources, a strategy designed to boost scale and help it grow faster in regions closer to customers.
“The next few years are going to be critical in terms of whether there’s enough available lithium supply, and that’s why you’re starting to see commodity prices start to ramp,” said Chris Berry, an independent lithium industry consultant.
The price gains helped Albemarle and other major producers, including China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co and SQM, post big gains in first-quarter profit and boost forecasts for the year.
Even China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp, saddled with debt due to years of low lithium prices, signaled that recovering demand should help it swing to a profit this year.
Forecasts call for demand for the white metals to surge from about 320,000 tonnes annually last year to more than 1 million tonnes annually by 2025, when many automakers plan to launch new EV fleets, according to Benchmark.
Still, demand is expected to outstrip supply in 2025 by more than 200,000 tonnes, so lithium prices may need to rise to encourage producers to build more mines. That could boost the prices consumers pay for EVs. “Companies across the lithium-ion supply chain are in the best position they’ve been in for the last 5 years,” said Pedro Palandrani of the Global X Lithium & Battery Technology ETF , which has doubled in value in the past year.