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“We must not miss it”, say the residents of a future mine in the Allier

Opponents of the lithium mine? “You won’t find any!“, answer the regulars of the coffee in heart. The ore extraction project is generally well received in Wadersa town already marked by an important mining history with the tungsten, then kaolin since 1850.”The population is still familiar with this activity and it cannot be otherwisebelieves Danièle Saint-Martin, a lifelong resident, when you are lucky enough to have a subsoil that has so many recognized and identified minerals, a hundred.

>>Energy: smartphones, computers, batteries… Soon French lithium?

The Imerys group announced to everyone’s surprise the opening of a lithium mine in 2027, in this town located between Vichy and Montluçon. The site should make it possible to produce batteries for 700,000 vehicles per year for an investment of one billion euros, with the creation of a thousand jobs in the area.

An exceptional event happens, I say: ‘You must not miss it’,” argues Danièle, before her husband, Roger, goes one better: “Thirty years ago, we were already talking about lithium. I am very very happy that this is happening. Its very important.”

HASefore the sudden closure of the tungsten mine 60 years ago, Waders had 800 inhabitants, the double of today. Lithium could restart the machine, especially when we know that the site contains a treasure. “We estimate the deposit at around one million tonnes of lithium oxide.” said Alessandro Dazza, CEO of Imerys.

The group intends to produce “34,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year from 2028 for a period of at least 25 years.“Which is significant in view of an annual world production which does not exceed 450,000 tons according to Imerys.

Nicolas Perrin produces hazelnuts close to the future mine and dares to compare the two activities: “We are in a local approach, it is not the same product, but it is nevertheless a raw material, an energy in electricity, a good base for all these vehicles. If we can produce it in France, it will always be a local economy that can recover the fruit of all this”.

Faced with the argument of energy sovereignty via lithium, concerns persist about the conditions for extracting the ore. For the site ofWaders, the concentration is of the order of 0.9 to 1% in the soil. It is therefore necessary to extract nearly 100 tons of rock to keep only one ton of lithium. “Lhe apprehension that we can have is at the level of water availability and water consumption. We know that these are processes [d’extraction] that require a lot of water“, warns the mayor of the town, Frédéric d’Allègre.

“We have to stop with the myth of the clean mine! All of this is communication and flan. We don’t know how to extract material from the subsoil in a clean way.”

Antoine Gatet, vice-president of France nature environment (FNE)

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The chosen one promises that he will remain vigilant about these environmental consequences. “We will follow them closely on this. We love our rural setting and we have no intention of doubling the population tomorrow. So yes, we want to keep our well-being at Waders. These are things that are important to us.

The Imerys group wants to be reassuring and has announced that the mine will adopt an international standard currently being developed, which aims to reduce toxic discharges and minimize water consumption. Mining will take place underground, which will limit dust. The rocks will be transported by pipeline and rail to avoid trucks between the mine and the industrial site. As for the emissions generated by the operation, the group estimates them at 8 kilos of Co² per ton of lithium, against 16 to 20 kilos in Australia and China, according to him.

“Udon’t mine, this always involves a large chemical processing plant next door, which leads to exploitation, and ultimately pollution, of water and large quantities of waste that we don’t know how to manage“, points the finger at Antoine Gatet, vice-president of France nature environment (FNE).

“You shouldn’t miss it!”, the enthusiasm of the inhabitants about the lithium mine in the Allier – Report by Christophe Vincent

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