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Lithium is particularly needed to run electric cars. In France, the exploitation of this white gold divides. Some wish to free themselves from dependence on other countries, others denounce environmental madness.
Running electric cars, thanks to cleaner French lithium, is the promise of several extraction projects. This issue of energy sovereignty also arouses criticism. Beneath the meadows of northern Alsace lies a treasure that may soon be accessible. “The echo is recorded by this sensor, and all the information collected by this geophone will make it possible to obtain an ultrasound of the subsoil”, explains David Soubeyrand, Lithium extraction project manager in France. This makes it possible to identify brines, pockets of underground water.
Lithium is particularly essential for the electric batteries of cars, or telephones. France is totally dependent today. Most lithium is mined in Australia and Chile, then refined in China. Polluting mines, where millions of liters of water are used and lost to extract the ore. France intends to be more virtuous, with in particular a project in the Allier on an old quarry, or in Alsace, where a solution could come from geothermal energy.
Today, hot water from basements is drawn, transformed into energy and reinjected. A technology under study would make it possible to capture the lithium atoms, before returning the water to the ground. The first ore samples were produced in 2021. An amount of fresh water needed in the process, however, could be lost.