The lithium mine project in Allier recognized as being of “major national interest”

The decree was published in Official newspaper as of Sunday, July 7, a few hours before the results of the second round of the legislative elections. The project of a lithium mine in Allier, led by the French group Imerys, has been classified as a “major project of national interest” by the government. This special status, created by the law on green industry voted in October 2023, allows industrial projects deemed important for national sovereignty and the ecological transition to benefit from acceleration measures or administrative exemptions, in order to facilitate their development.

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The “Emili” project (for “lithium-bearing mica exploitation”) is part of the French policy aimed at building a new national sector of strategic minerals and metals, in order to be less dependent on imports, particularly from China. Lithium is a central raw material in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles, while thermal engines are to be banned from sale in the European Union from 2035.

The project in Allier, whose investments are estimated at 1 billion euros, would be the first opening of a mine in France in nearly fifty years. According to Imerys, it would make it possible to produce lithium from 2028 to equip 700,000 batteries per year for at least a quarter of a century.


Several sites have been selected by the company: the lithium extraction and processing project would be located in Echassières, in an underground mine, on the Beauvoir quarry, where Imerys has been mining kaolin for ceramics since 2005; the storage site in the commune of Saint-Bonnet-de-Rochefort, about fifteen kilometers away; and the conversion plant for refining in Montluçon, 49 kilometers away. The ore would be transported from one site to another by underground or by train. Imerys promises, in the long term, between 500 and 600 direct jobs, and a thousand indirect jobs.

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Announced in 2022, the Emili project is supported by the State and the government, but it provokes opposition from nature protection organizations and part of the local population, who fear consequences for the environment and health. A public debate was launched in March, which is due to conclude on July 31, according to the National Commission for Public Debate (CNDP), which will present its results in October.

Obtaining the status of “major national interest project” before the end of the public debate has provoked the anger of opponents. For the association Préservons la forêt des Colettes, which fears soil and water pollution linked to the mine around Echassières, this decision is “a passage in force” And “a denial of democracy”. “This is proof that this debate is just a formality put in place by the public authorities and Imerys, and that the opinion of local populations will not be taken into account.”says Etienne Philippe, a member of the association.

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