Czech energy giant ČEZ Group is considering whether to construct a facility for the production of lithium-ion batteries, which are used to power electric cars, in the northern region of North Bohemia, a government minister has said.
The Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, Karel Havlíček told reporters that if ČEZ went ahead with the plan it would represent one of the biggest investments of its kind in Central Europe.
ČEZ, which is about 70% state owned, would build the plant with the help of other investors from the automotive industry, Havlíček said on a visit to Berlin. The intention is to use lithium mined in the country's Ore Mountains near the town of Cínovec, on the German border.
ČEZ should take control of lithium mining in Cínovec by the end of next month.
Mining of the element is already taking place on the German side of the border, where about one-third of the lithium in the region is located. The minister said it was also an immensely interesting and valuable resource for the Czech Republic.
In reference to Tesla's manufacturing plants, one of which is to be built near Berlin, Havlíček described the proposed facility as being a "gigafactory".
No reference was made to the cost of the proposed project but the minister said it could be built within a few years and that ČEZ would not be the sole investor.
Last year, ČEZ made a conditional agreement with mining company European Metals Holdings (EMH) on a strategic partnership and a significant investment in the lithium mining project in Cínovec.
If the deal with EMH goes ahead, ČEZ will acquire a 51% stake in Geodet, a Czech subsidiary of EMH, which owns mining rights, for around CZK 853-million (€34-million)
ČEZ spokesman Roman Gazdík said the company was considering lithium mining and had entered into a partnership with Slovak company InoBat, which intends to build a factory in Slovakia.
Gazdík said such projects were now a priority in the European Union, with the electrification of the automotive industry an area of high priority.
The ČEZ representative said that as a major car manufacturer, the Czech Republic was a logical candidate for the development of the battery industry.
It is estimated the Czech Republic sits on around 3% of the world's sources of lithium resources. The vast majority lies in Cínovec, which boasts the largest deposit in the whole of Europe. There is also a small amount in Slavkovský les, a mountain range in West Bohemia.