Satellites to search for lithium ‘fingerprint’

Posted on 09 Feb 2018 and read 808 times
Satellites to search for lithium ‘fingerprint’A team of data scientists at the Satellite Applications Catapult ( is leading a new study (funded by Innovate UK) to see if it is possible to detect a lithium ‘fingerprint’ from space by imaging vegetation and minerals on the ground using satellites.

Data from the study will be integrated with geological information to create a ‘prospectivity map’ to help identify indicators of geological structures that may host lithium in waters (known as brines) deep below the surface.

The study is taking place in Cornwall, where there are many historical accounts of brine containing lithium, some dating back to 1864.

Now that lithium has become a crucial material for the development of electric-car batteries, the lithium in Cornwall may represent an important resource.

Lithium consumption is expected to grow rapidly over the next few decades, as electric vehicles become mainstream — and as batteries are used to to store power harvested from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

The challenge posed by the study is to understand whether satellite techniques can identify the best areas to explore.

There are 11 organisations involved in the study, looking at four areas of research: geology, vegetation, fault detection and environmental monitoring of mining operations.

Using the data from the project, the team will develop a visualisation tool to show how Earth Observation and geological data can be integrated to develop software to monitor the impact of a mine throughout its lifecycle.

The project — funded through a grant of £850,000 from Innovate UK — involves the British Geological Survey, Camborne School of Mines (part of the University of Exeter), Carrak Consulting, North Coast Consulting, Cornish Lithium Ltd, CGG, Terrabotics, Telespazio Vega UK, Geo Performa and Dares Technology.

Jeremy Wrathall, founder and CEO of Cornish Lithium Ltd, said: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting project. Lithium has strat-egic importance to the UK economy, and we hope that the funding will accelerate understanding of the potential to extract lithium in Cornwall.

"We believe that techniques developed from this study will prove of great interest to the mining industry globally, given the growing importance of Earth Observation techniques as an unobtrusive exploration tool world-wide.”

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