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Industrial metals company Imerys said on Monday it plans to open one of Europe’s largest lithium mines in central France by 2027 to support the continent’s transition to electric vehicles.

The company said its research has confirmed sufficient concentrations and quantities of lithium at the site in the central Allier region to produce 34,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year from 2028, enough to power 700,000 electric vehicles annually.

Lithium is a key component of batteries for electric vehicles and other high-tech devices.

Europe extracts and processes few minerals. This has led to questions that Europe is simply switching from crude oil to lithium as it phases out sales of internal combustion engine cars by 2035.

French metals and mining firm Imerys said the project would “increase Europe’s industrial sovereignty at a time when car and battery makers are heavily dependent on imported lithium, a key element of the energy transition”.

The €1 billion project will mine lithium underground to limit environmental damage on the surface and meet responsible mining standards.

Imerys said the project aims to produce lithium with less than half the CO2 emissions of existing lithium plants using a fleet of electric mines, low-carbon transport options and low-carbon electricity.

It is planned that the mine will work for 25 years.