The Czech Ministry of Industry and Australia's European Metals Holdings have signed a memorandum of understanding on a deal that would give the Australian company the right to mine lithium in Europe’s biggest known deposit in the north-western part of the Czech Republic. The main condition of the agreement is that the lithium mined should be processed in the Czech Republic.
Lithium is used in batteries and is a key component for electric cars. The Czech Republic is reckoned to have around 3 percent of the world’s reserves, natural resources which are estimated at around 87 billion US dollars.
The country is now setting down conditions for lithium mining –economic and environmental – and the Australian Company European Metals Holding is a serious contender. It wants to mine over 650 tons of lithium in the country’s main deposit in Cinovec, near the German border, over a period of 21 years.
According to the company’s CEO Keith Coughlan EMH is ready to meet the basic conditions set down. “We are ready to continue talks with the government about the precise processing and uses of lithium including the possibility that the Czech state would become a capital investor in the project” he told Czech Television.
Initial investments into the mines are estimated at around ten billion crowns and mining could begin in 2022. It would create approximately 1,000 new jobs in the locality and 1,600 related jobs linked to the production process.
The extent of mining and environmental conditions are still to be determined by the Environment Ministry.
Meanwhile, the question who should be allowed to mine and process the country’s natural wealth has evoked plenty of controversy on the Czech political scene. The ANO party and the Communists say they find it totally unacceptable to grant that privilege to a foreign firm. They say the mining and processing should be left in Czech hands and done by firms in the public sector which would make greater profit than that promised by EMH.
On the other hand, the Christian Democrats and the right-of-centre parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats say it should make no difference who mines the lithium as long as the economic and environmental conditions are set right.