New Zealand company leads the way in environmentally friendly lithium extraction

Published: 22 June, 2021 · Updated: 21 December, 2021

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A New Zealand company has successfully developed an environmentally-friendly way of extracting lithium, a valuable metal vital in building electric vehicle batteries.

A geothermal cloud is rising from a large work site. In the background there is blue sky and green landscape.

Geo40's Ohaaki Northern Silica Plant near Taupō

While lithium is highly prized and important in building a lower-carbon future, the main method of extracting it is by hard-rock mining, a process not regarded as environmentally friendly.

However, Taupō-based company Geo40 Limited has developed a system to sustainably recover lithium from groundwater in historic tin mines.

In laboratory tests, Geo40 has already successfully recovered lithium from waters sourced from Europe, South America and New Zealand.

It is now showcasing its work internationally.

As global leaders gathered for the recent G7 summit in Cornwall, Geo40 exhibited their Direct Lithium Recovery technology at lithium exploration company Cornish Lithium’s drill-site in South West England.

Geo40 has a track record in extracting valuable compounds from waste water. It has also developed a technique to extract silica from geothermal water and has designed, built and operates the world’s first commercial sized green silica extraction plant at the Ohaaki geothermal site in Taupō.

Silica is one of the potentially most valuable minerals, being a marketable commodity with a wide range of uses, including glass manufacture, foundries, building products, chemicals and microchips.

Geo40’s Ohaaki geothermal silicon extraction plant was developed with funding from Kānoa - Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit.