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Double boost for Tees green sector

Tees Valley’s green energy sector got a double boost today as uncertainty continues to hang over the future of the planned Britishvolt factory at Blyth in Northumberland.

In what Business Secretary Grant Shapps on a visit to Teesside today described as ‘levelling up in action’, he announced what the government said was the UK’s first large-scale merchant lithium refinery.

The refinery will provide battery grade materials for use in the electric vehicle (EV), renewable energy and consumer technology supply chains.

Green Lithium unveiled Teesport in Middlesbrough as the site for its forthcoming lithium refinery, delivering more than 1,000 jobs in construction and 250 long-term high-skill jobs for local people once up and running.

Green Lithium aims for this to be the first merchant lithium refinery outside of Asia, where 89% of the world’s lithium processing currently takes place; there are currently no lithium refineries in Europe.

The UK Government has backed Green Lithium with a grant of over £600,000 through the Automotive Transformation Fund.

Lithium is an essential component of batteries, and a secure supply will be critical for the automotive and energy industries, according to the government. Critical minerals are irreplaceable in products essential to our everyday lives – such as mobile phones, wind turbines and fighter jets.

The Department for Industry, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: ‘Critical minerals are at high risk of supply disruption because of volatile markets and complex supply chains. The world in 2040 is projected to need four times more critical minerals than it does today.’

Grant Shapps said: ‘We’re backing companies like Green Lithium here in Teesside to grow the new, green industries across the UK, sparking jobs and growth for decades to come.

‘This is levelling up in action. The refinery will deliver more than 1,000 jobs during its construction and 250 long-term, high-skill jobs for local people when in operation.

‘It is also allowing us to move quickly to secure our supply chains of critical minerals, as we know that geopolitical threats and global events beyond our control can severely impact the supply of key components that could delay the rollout of electric vehicles in the UK.’

Also today, TeessideLive reported that the UK’s largest EV battery recycling facility is set to be built on Teesside, creating 100-200 high-value jobs and hundreds more during its 18-month construction period.

Global firm Altilium Metals will transform battery waste from more than 150,000 electric vehicles into ‘cathode active material’ – a key component of new batteries, according to the paper.

Altilium Metals recently secured £3m in government innovation funding to scale up its process to extract the metals from spent batteries, supporting an EV supply chain and circular economy, TeessideLive reports.

These successes for Tees Valley come as investment bank Lazard is reported to have been given five weeks to find new owners for the planned Britishvolt electric battery plant, which would create 3,000 direct jobs and around 5,000 in its supply chain, while also manufacturing hundreds of thousands of EV batteries.

The news in today’s BusinessLive was first reported in The Times.

Britishvolt has been pledged £100m in government support, but Mr Shapps said last week that the money would only be paid when agreed milestones were reached.