The French company Imerys is one of the players specializing in lithium extraction. The company is banking on the development of a major site in France located in the heart of the Massif Central. This open-air mine raises as many economic hopes as environmental concerns.
The Massif Central: a major French site for lithium
The Allier department is banking on lithium to revive its economy and its attractiveness. According to prefect Pascale Trimbach, “ it is a structuring project for the department since it should generate around 1,000 direct and indirect jobs “. According to her, it is also a very important project for France in terms of “ reindustrialization and energy sovereignty “. Many potential extraction sites have been identified.
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As part of the Emili project, Imerys wishes to exploit the 118 million tonnes of ore which contain lithium near Echassières. The presence of this white gold is linked to the formation of ancient mountain ranges more than 300 million years ago. For Christopher Heymann, director of the site, it is a deposit “ of European or even global interest “. From 2028, Imerys plans to extract enough lithium to power 700,000 electric cars per year.
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On the surface, this is very good news for France. However, the project raises serious environmental concerns. Indeed, some locals highlight the risks posed by sustained lithium extraction activity on this natural site in the Massif Central. Jacques Morisot, from the association Préservons la forêt des Colettes, redoubt “ the drop in the level of the water table ».
In fact, he says “ very worried about the nearby forest and more broadly for the local economy which, beyond industry, is based on agriculture and tourism “. He criticizes the project leaders in particular for wanting to equip too many “ Electric SUVs “. Before wondering if it’s right ” what must be done to respect the planet “. The French company is well aware of the debate currently agitating the department.
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Christopher Heymann specifies that a study will be carried out to “ measure the behavior of the water tables over a year and include the project in this modeling “. According to him, no drilling will be carried out under the forest. He specifies that the lithium will be transported by pipeline and railway. This project will be the subject of a public debate in spring 2024.
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