LONDON (Reuters) - Cornish Lithium, a battery minerals firm set up by a former City analyst, on Friday became the first British miner to launch a crowd funding campaign as it seeks play a role in securing strategic mineral supplies.
Britain’s mining industry is regarded by many as a thing of the past but a handful of companies are trying to revive it, particularly for the extraction of battery minerals, after government backing for a greener economy and less polluting transport.
Jeremy Wrathall, a mining engineer who graduated from the Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall, southwest England, and became an analyst for Investec bank, set up Cornish Lithium in 2016 to use digital technology to reassess Cornwall’s mineral wealth.
“We know it’s there. Whether it’s economic, we will find out, but why would we not look if it’s on our doorstep?” Wrathall said in an interview.
His firm is hunting not only for lithium, but also for other battery minerals, including cobalt.
Research to gauge interest in crowd funding had elicited an enthusiastic response, he said.
“It (crowd funding) is saying to people ‘if you think this is important, please help us fund it’,” Wrathall said.
Small mining projects have often struggled to raise cash as investors are wary of a sector scarred by price crashes and environmental, safety and governance (ESG) concerns.
Crowdcube, the world’s first and largest equity crowd funding platform, which is working with Cornish Lithium, said in an email it believed it was “the first example of equity crowd funding for the mining sector in Britain”.
Wrathall says Britain has the advantage of being a low-risk jurisdiction despite uncertainties over its decision to leave the European Union.
Cornish Lithium has already raised 2 million pounds ($2.5 million) from private backers and the crowd funding aims to generate at least 1 million more.
Wrathall said the plan was to list within 3 years, which would make it easier for the crowd funders, who will each get an equity stake, to exit if they wish.
Cornish Lithium has the rights to explore lithium brines across 300 square kilometres, including property owned by South Crofty, which in 1998 was the last tin mine to close in Cornwall. It is being redeveloped by Strongbow Exploration.
Civil servants have been working on plans to ensure Britain has strategic minerals as the country prepares to leave the European Union, which has its own supply strategy for mainland Europe’s car and renewables industry.
Jaguar Land Rover at the start of July announced a multi-million pound investment to build electric vehicles in Britain.
Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Kirsten Donovan