Mining for lithium could start in the Czech Republic in two years, exploiting Europe's largest resource of the metal that is used in batteries for electric vehicles and home power storage. As Kate King reports, some of the biggest demand for lithium is right next door.
They call it white gold. And the Czech Republic could be in for a windfall Mining for lithium is set to be revived within two years, by an Australian company which says it's found deposits amounting to 1.3 million tonnes. That - would be the largest deposit in Europe. (SOUNDBITE) (Czech) EXPERT AT CZECH GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, JAROMIR STARY, SAYING: "That is about three percent of the world's lithium resources. In this lode, reserves haven't been evaluated yet, we're only talking about possible resources." Demand for Lithium is expected to triple in the next decade The metal is vital in making batteries which power smart phones, laptops and most importantly for this region, electric cars. Cinovec, lies near the border with industrial powerhouse Germany. A mining town for nearly 600 years - it already has infrastructure in place. But European Metals still needs to obtain a permit to mine there. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN METALS CHIEF EXECUTIVE, KEITH COUGHLAN, SAYING: "The permit process is going along as it should be, everything is happening in an orderly fashion and in the right sort of timeline." The price of Lithium has been increasing as much as 20 percent year on year On the Chinese spot market it can reach as much as 20-thousand per tonne once processed, A pre-feasibility study on this low-grade ore indicated a price of 3,483 dollars a tonne. (SOUNDBITE) (Czech) EXPERT AT CZECH GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, JAROMIR STARY, SAYING: "The lode is being prepared at the moment, but it is too early to say if it is profitable or not." The demand is largely driven by the vehicle industry. Daimler, owner of Mercedes-Benz, has begun construction for a second lithium battery factory just over the border in Germany. While Tesla has also announced plans to to build a "gigafactory" somewhere in Europe.