The metal – a key component in electric car batteries – was found in deep underground hot springs just north of the town of Redruth. Cornish Lithium said it was of a “globally significant” grade and could be enough to meet all the UK’s demand if and when the country moves from fossil fuel vehicles to electric ones.
The company said the find had the potential to turn Cornwall into the UK’s hub for battery materials and create hundreds of jobs.
It said commercial production could start within three to five years and claims the find could lead to a string of battery plants being built in the far south-west.
Jeremy Wrathall, CEO and founder of Cornish Lithium, said the find could kickstart a renaissance for Cornwall’s traditional mining industry.
He said: “We think it’s the beginning of a new chapter for Cornwall and the UK.”
Mr Wrathall continued: “It will bring jobs. It will bring prosperity to Cornwall.
“Hopefully, Cornwall will become the battery materials hub for the UK.”
Mr Wrathall said his team could not believe “the exceptionally high” grades of lithium.
A Cornish Lithium spokesman said: “Initial results indicate some of the world’s highest grades of lithium and best overall chemical qualities encountered in published records for geothermal waters anywhere in the world.”
He said the hot, salty water in which the lithium was found could also be used to create power.
The spokesman said: “The same water can be used to generate zero-carbon electrical power and heat.
“As such, these waters are rapidly becoming recognised as the ultimate ethical source of lithium.”
Cornish Lithium is collaborating with a company called Geothermal Engineering, which is working on the production of power and heat from the hot granite rocks beneath Cornwall.
Funding has been provided by the Government’s Getting Building Fund to build a £4m pilot lithium extraction plant at United Downs.
Another four potential spots on top of the pilot site have already been pinpointed and there may be many more. Each plant could lead to the creation of up to 50 jobs.
Redruth’s mayor Deborah Reeve said Cornish Lithium’s discovery could be a huge boost to the area.
She said: “It would be brilliant, not just for this town, but for the whole of Cornwall.
“I’m amazed at their persistence, commitment and enthusiasm. They are so sure it will work. Let’s hope it will.”