French industrial minerals company Imerys has purchased an 80% stake in British Lithium, a UK-based startup dedicated to lithium metallurgical research.

The two companies have agreed to form a joint venture to create the UK’s first integrated battery-grade lithium carbonate producer.

Imerys would contributes its lithium mineral resources, existing mining footprint, experienced teams, and infrastructure in Cornwall, in exchange for the 80% stake in the joint venture.

British Lithium will leverage its lithium processing technology, technical team and its lithium pilot plant to retain the remaining 20%.

The transaction has been approved by the UK Government, under the National Security Investment Act protocol.

Imerys CEO Alessandro Dazza said: “This acquisition is a milestone in Imerys’ journey to becoming a key partner in the energy transition. Building on our recent investment in the EMILI Project in France, we are uniquely placed to become a leading supplier of lithium in the UK and Europe.

“We look forward to unlocking the joint potential of British Lithium and Imerys to make Cornwall a successful lithium hub, building on its centuries-old mining heritage.”

British Lithium has carried out drilling and exploration on Imerys-owned land in Cornwall and developed a unique process and pilot plant to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate.

The pilot plant received financial support from the UK’s national innovation agency, Innovate UK, the Automotive Transformation Fund, which supports electrification of vehicles in the UK.

The joint venture is expected to strengthen the domestic supply of critical minerals, which is important for the UK’s growing manufacturing industry and help create the jobs of the future.

Furthermore, the joint venture is expected to reduce the UK’s and Europe’s dependence on critical raw materials imports, contributing to the achievement of their climate change targets.

British Lithium chairman Roderick Smith said: “After working closely with Imerys several years, the Directors, shareholders, and staff of British Lithium are delighted to formalize their partnership with Imerys and are confident that this alignment of interests will propel us toward continued rapid progress.

“This marks a key milestone for British Lithium, Imerys, and the entire lithium battery industry, as they embark on a journey to establish a sustainable future for lithium production in the United Kingdom.”