The head of Australian-based mining company, European Metals Holdings (EMH) has re-stated its intent to push ahead and exploit some of Europe’s biggest known lithium reserves sited in the Czech Republic.
EMH general director Keith Coughlan held a press conference in Prague on October 24 in which he said the company is keen to talk about its plans with a new Czech government. He added though that it intends to abide by the memorandum of cooperation signed with the outgoing Social Democrat industry minister, Jiří Havlíček, at the start of October.
That memorandum became one of the main battlegrounds of the Czech pre-election campaign with ANO leader Andrej Babiš accusing the minister of sacrificing national interests in a mining deal that, he said, echoed past coal mining scandals, such as that of Ostrava-based hard coal miner OKD.
Babiš is now in the Czech political driving seat after his party won 78 mandates in the 200-seat and has been given the task of forming a new government by the Czech president. A week ahead of elections the lower house of parliament debated the lithium memorandum with EMH for nine hours and called for it to be cancelled. That though was just a recommendation and not binding on the outgoing or incoming government.
As well as saying it’s willing to talk with the government, Coughlan also added in Prague that it is ready to talk with Czech state-owned mining company Diamo about a possible role for it in exploiting the lithium reserves at Cínovec in the far north of the country near the German border.
Diamo was until recently in charge of mining the Czech Republic’s uranium reserves but the last deep mine has closed with clean up the company’s main remit now. But Diamo still has a lot of mining know how to hand.
One of the major issues thrown up by the pre-election furore about the lithium memorandum was the level of mining royalties that would be paid by EMH for exploiting what are seen as the biggest reserves in Europe and the fourth biggest deep mined lithium reserves in the world. Environmental group Greenpeace weighted into the argument with claims that the royalties were exceptionally low and should be revised.
EMH’s own statement on its web pages have made clear that its early assumptions of both lithium and tin reserves at the Cínovec site have frequently exceeded expectations as drill and other survey results came in over recent years. The presence of an estimated 263 tonnes of tin that can be mined alongside the lithium should, it says, result in the final lithium being amongst the cheapest reserves of their kind and well suited for the production of batteries for electric cars and other applications.