Government funds New Zealand company Geo40's world-leading technology to recover lithium

The government is injecting $2 million into a promising geothermal venture in Taupō.

Local company Geo40 produces silica from its plant in the region - but is now turning its focus to lithium.

The element is highly sought-after across the world, and is a key component in electric vehicles.

At the Ohaaki Geothermal Power Station, New Zealand is taking on the world.

It’s here local company Geo40 is developing technology to recover lithium from underground.

It's got the Government very excited.

"I don't think it gets any better than this," Labour MP Stuart Nash says.

"We think this is amazingly innovative technology that is leading the world and it plays into everything that brand New Zealand is about."

Lithium is the key component in batteries and as electric cars become the norm it's in huge demand.

Geo40 already recovers another valuable mineral, silica, exporting it across the globe.

It recovers small amounts of lithium now, extracting it from water deep below the earth's surface and it wants to upscale that to match its silica production. 

"We've proven we can do it in silica and the job ahead of us in lithium is largely the same," Geo40 CEO John Worth says.

"To keep going through that journey scaling up successfully at each step… Until we really have assets at this sort of scale."

If they do it's hoped that one day they could supply lithium to companies like Tesla.

And to help, the government is injecting $2m through Kānoa, the Regional Economic Development Unit.

As part of the deal, it will also take an equity share in the company.

"The government is a shareholder, we back this," Nash says.

"We back the process, it's part of what we stand for as a country and we're very happy to be partners with the Geo40 management team."

Lithium recovery might be a long term project, but it's hoped when it's produced on a large scale it will bring long-lasting benefits for our economy and a cleaner future on the road.