LITHIUM AUSTRALIA TO PILOT-TEST MICA CONCENTRATES FROM WESTERN AUSTRALIA's 'LITHIUM-FIELDS'
- New potential for waste material to contribute to commercial lithium production
- Western Australian source selected for additional ANSTO pilot plant run
- August test schedule in Sydney, with results Q4 2018
- Multiple lithium mica feed sources identified for new large-scale pilot plant (LSPP)
- LSPP front-end engineering and design (FEED) study nearing completion
Western Australia’s goldfields rank second behind China in global gold production. By way of contrast, Western Australia is now the world’s largest lithium producer – from the state's 'Lithium-fields'. These host abundant pegmatites, many of which contain lithium micas. The latter have long been considered waste by the mining industry. This premier locale is also home to Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT), which is developing disruptive technologies for the sustainable and ethical production of battery materials.
Lithium Australia specialises in the process development of waste materials, including lithium micas. While the company considers the Lithium-fields 'rich pickings', it has also identified prospective regions in Europe. Indeed, Lithium Australia’s maiden resource in terms of lithium micas is located in Germany.
Lithium Australia, in conjunction with CPC Project Design Pty Ltd and ANSTO Minerals (a division of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation), anticipates completion of the FEED study in the September 2018 quarter. Location trade-off evaluations are being undertaken in conjunction with this study.
LSPP feed source
Lithium Australia has identified a number of lithium mica occurrences as potential feed sources for the LSPP. These include lithium mica deposits in France and Germany, and two deposits located in the eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia.
Western Australian LSPP feed
Substantial bench-scale and pilot plant trial test work has been undertaken on the Lepidolite Hill deposit (80% Lithium Australia, 20% Focus Minerals). To date, however, far less test work has been undertaken at a second deposit designated Waste2. Laboratory tests have shown that the metallurgical characteristics of concentrates produced from Waste2 vary from those of other micas tested. That variation is a consequence of the Waste2 concentrates having a higher ratio of muscovite (a common mica devoid of lithium) and lepidolite (a common lithium-rich mica).
Data acquired during the test run will be used to finalise FEED) criteria. The Waste2 concentrate has the following chemical composition, expressed as a weight %.
Pilot plant test at ANSTO Minerals
The concentrates generated from Waste2 will be tested in a SiLeach® pilot plant located within the ANSTO Minerals facilities at Lucas Heights in New South Wales. The pilot plant is configured for operating conditions that reflect those of the latest SiLeach® process, which includes recovery of lithium by way of phosphate precipitation.
The pilot plant run is due to commence in early August. The aim is to produce lithium products to commercial specifications, with the data acquired during the test run used to finalise FEED design criteria.
Says Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin:
“Lithium Australia continues its war on waste. In processing the Waste2 material, we will clearly demonstrate that we can take the particular waste provided, run it through the SiLeach® pilot plant and create a commercial lithium chemical. But that's only step 2 in ascending the value chain. Subsequently, the lithium chemical will be sent from Lucas Heights to our VSPC Brisbane plant for processing into battery cathode material. The cathode powder will then be tested at VSPC's in-house battery testing facility. We hope to report on its performance with respect to battery applications in coming months.”
BRISBANE PILOT PLANT COMMENCES PRODUCTION OF LITHIUM-ION CATHODE MATERIAL FOR GLOBAL BATTERY MARKET
- First cathode material produced at VSPC's re-commissioned pilot plant
- Delivery of cathode material samples to international battery makers in Q4 2018
Production of advanced battery cathode material
VSPC is a specialist battery-component research and development laboratory wholly owned by Perth-based Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT). VSPC is pleased to report that its pilot production facilities in Brisbane, Queensland are now fully re-commissioned, and lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery cathode material is being produced.
International battery makers have previously shown strong interest in VSPC’s 4th-generation LFP cathode material. Tellingly, in tests completed late in 2017, the performance of VSPC's cathode material exceeded that of an industry standard material (see ASX announcement dated 1 November 2017).
VSPC’s electrochemical laboratory facilities now fully operational
The quality and consistency of VSPC's pilot-production materials are currently being verified via the company’s advanced, on-site electrochemical testing facilities, the capabilities of which include the ability to assemble and test lithium-ion coin and pouch cells.
Very Small Particle Company Ltd name change
In tandem with the recommissioning, Lithium Australia advises a change of name for its subsidiary from “Very Small Particle Company Ltd” (ACN 087 481 927) to “VSPC Ltd” (VSPC).
Says Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin:
“VSPC gives Lithium Australia the opportunity to manufacture the world's most advanced cathode materials – at the high-margin end of the battery metals market. Importantly, VSPC will also allow us to capitalise on waste batteries as a feed source. We anticipate immense pressure on the supply of energy metals such as lithium and cobalt in the near future. Battery recycling not only supports sustainability but may also, ultimately, prove the cheapest source of those energy metals materials in years to come. The ability to produce cathode powders from these materials, while also controlling particle size, is clearly advantageous. It is an integral part of our sustainable and ethical supply policy."
LITHIUM AUSTRALIA (ASX: LIT) BREAKS NEW GROUND IN PROCESSING TECHNOLOGY
PATENT PROTECTION FOR BREAKTHROUGH
LIT has recently lodged two new patent applications; namely:
- 'Process to produce lithium phosphate', and
- 'Process for recovering lithium phosphate and/or lithium sulphate from lithium-bearing silicates'.
The innovations covered by the patents provide LIT’s SiLeach® process with an unprecedented advantage, that of lithium recovery from the process liquors without the requirement for extensive evaporation. This remarkable breakthrough may also have application to process streams other than those generated by SiLeach®, such as, conventional spodumene conversion, mica sulfation roasting or lithium-containing waste waters.
These new process steps will further refine Lithium Australia's plans to commercialise SiLeach®, including the development of a large-scale pilot plant (LSPP) (see ASX release dated 6 July 2017). The enhancements will not only reduce capital costs and the operating costs associated with managing the water balance but also improve the quality of the lithium chemicals and potassium by-products that SiLeach® generates
FROM MINE WASTE TO CATHODE MATERIALS
Lithium Australia's SiLeach® process can extract lithium from all silicate minerals, but is ideally suited to processing lithium micas, considered a waste product in many mining operations. Lithium Australia is currently undertaking a scoping study on its recently acquired Sadisdorf deposit (ASX announcement 12 June 2018), where, it is hoped, SiLeach® will breathe new life into the mothballed tin mine, enabling the recovery of lithium, tin and other by-products.
The resulting lithium chemicals can be used as a feed source for Lithium Australia's VSPC cathode powder production technology, providing a cost-effective means of delivering lithium units to battery producers.
LITHIUM AUSTRALIA ACQUIRES SIGNIFICANT RESOURCE ON THE DOORSTEP OF THE EUROPEAN EV INDUSTRY
- Lithium Australia to purchase the Sadisdorf lithium/tin project from Tin International AG
- Acquisition provides 100% equity in a substantial resource close to expanding LIB production capacity
- 100% owned SiLeach® provides the path for unlocking resource value
- Target completion for scoping study – October 2018
- Synergistic supply opportunity with cobalt and other energy metals
Lithium Australia (ASX:LIT) will, subject to regulatory requirements, acquire 100% of the Sadisdorf lithium/tin resource from Tin International AG (see Figure 1). Consultant CSA Global has estimated that the Sadisdorf Project has an Inferred Mineral Resource of 25 million tonnes grading 0.45% Li2O 1 (ASX announcement 7 December 2017). Significantly the lithium is contained within lithium micas within alteration around tin mineralization, the latter being the subject of historic mining. The lithium micas can be readily concentrated after the removal of tin by conventional gravity separation. Lithium has been very successfully extracted from Sadisdorf mica concentrates using LIT’s SiLeach® process.
Asia, primarily China, South Korea and Japan have lead the world in lithium ion (LIB) cell production but things are changing. Today Europe has only one factory, located in the UK, manufacturing lithium-ion (LIB) cells for electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Big plans are on foot to change that in what has become one of the fastest growing precincts of LIB consumption.
Recently China’s BYD announced plans to establish a battery factory in Europe while Northvolt, together with Siemens and Scania, through an investment of €4 billion, will do likewise.
CATL, Samsung SDI, and LG Chem are following suit to establish European production capacity and SK Innovations will establish a factory in Hungary.
The planned capacity in Europe will dwarf the much-publicized Tesla Gigafactory and Europe may well become the highest concentration of energy metal consumption outside China. The major consumers are already competing for offtake, and the establishment of raw material supply will be a critical aspect of their success. Major European auto manufacturers are forming strong alliances with the battery producers to ensure security of supply
With resources already well established at Sadisdorf, and Lithium Australia well down the track of commercializing its 100% owned Sileach® process, there is a great opportunity to develop a domestic European supply chain.
FURTHER COBALT - COPPER - LITHIUM HITS FOR LITHIUM AUSTRALIA IN FOLLOW-UP WORK ON EICHIGT PROJECT IN GERMANY
- Cobalt and copper hits in follow-up exploration work on the Eichigt polymetallic project in Saxony, eastern Germany
- Strong mineralisation on surface confirmed by rock chip assays from wholly owned Eichigt project show up to 1.47 % Co and 0.54 % Cu and 0.71% Li2O
- Additional veins encountered, all remain open along strike and down dip
Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT) is pleased to announce verification of significant cobalt - copper - lithium mineralisation from exploration fieldwork within the Company’s fully owned Eichigt project in Germany.
The 133km² Eichigt exploration licence was granted to Lithium Australia in January this year, adding to its existing Sadisdorf project, also in Saxony. Lithium Australiais farming into a joint venture (JV) with German company Tin International AG, as outlined in the ASX announcement of 28 February 2017. LIT then announced on 7 December 2017 a JORC (2012) Inferred Mineral Resource of 25 million tonnes grading 0.45% Li2O (at a cut-off of 0.3% Li2O).
Mining ceased in Eichigt in the 17th century, and with little modern exploration undertaken since, Lithium Australia’s initial sampling program aimed to test mineralisation of iron- and copper-bearing quartz veins that were subject to small-scale mining activities during the 16th century.
The area is known to host a buried granite cupola, prospective for volatile metals and lithium-bearing greisens.
Significant cobalt and copper mineralisation has been encountered in the field with grades of up to 1.47% for cobalt and 0.54 % for copper in Eichigt field samples (See Table 1). Lithium results in this second round are also elevated – critically, within weathered material – and grades of up to 0.71% Li2O have been received.
As part of the Company's objective to establish a central processing hub in Europe to support battery production for the rapidly expanding electric vehicle industry, Lithium Australia plans to use its 100%- owned SiLeach® process to recover lithium from its German projects, should doing so prove economically feasible.
THE NEW EICHIGT SAMPLING RESULTS
Significant results from the second round of 16 field grab samples are listed in Table 1, and the locations of the samples displayed in Figures 1 and 3.
These early results for cobalt and copper confirm polymetallic mineralisation within the Eichigt project area (see ASX release dated 30 May 2018). Deleterious elements, including arsenic and uranium are very low in concentration.
QUARTERLY ACTIVITIES REPORT FOR JUNE QUARTER 2018
LITHIUM AUSTRALIA SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL SUPPLY SOLUTIONS FOR THE BATTERY INDUSTRY
- Drilling completed at the Sadisdorf (Germany) lithium/tin project with positive results.
- VSPC resumes production of lithium-ion cathode materials with key appointments completed
- Abundant lithium in mine waste at Lepidolite Hill (WA)
- Acquisition of Moolyella project (WA)
- Sileach® pilot plant design nears completion
- LIT discovers lithium pegmatites at Medcalf (WA)
- LIT discovers cobalt mineralization at its Eichigt licence in Saxony Germany
- LIT to acquire balance of Sadisdorf Project from Tin International AG.
- LIT lodges two new patent applications including “process to produce lithium phosphate” and “process of recovering lithium phosphate and/or lithium sulphate from lithium bearing silicates”
- LIT commits to SiLeach® large scale pilot plant.
- Acquisition of Moolyella project.
- VSPC cathode material shown to be of superior quality.
- Brisbane pilot-plant commences production of lithium-ion cathode material.
- LIT to pilot-test mica concentrates sourced from WA.
Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT) has advanced its goal of developing an integrated lithium company with the capability of capitalising on all major sectors of the lithium supply chain, and in so doing closing the loop on the lithium production cycle.
Key elements of LIT's strategy include the following:
- 100% owned SiLeach® technology is capable of converting mine waste to lithium chemicals;
- VSPC technology can convert lithium chemicals to superior quality lithium-ion battery cathode materials; and
- Recycling technology will recover valuable metals, including lithium and cobalt, from spent batteries, closing the loop on the energy metal cycle.
LIT's technology development is supported by a growing resource base, which – coupled with its SiLeach® process – can breathe new life into otherwise stranded assets. A prime example is the association of tin with lithium mineralisation, as exemplified by the Sadisdorf deposit in Germany (see below).
Patent authorities have confirmed that SiLeach® is novel, inventive and has industry application. LIT has supported a significant research and development programme to achieve this goal and is now packaging the funding necessary to implement a large-scale pilot plant ('LSPP'). The latter, which is likely to be the world's first hydrometallurgical facility for the production of lithium chemicals from silicates, will be fed by mine waste.
During the June quarter, LIT lodged a number of patents including process to produce lithium phosphate” and “process of recovering lithium phosphate and/or lithium sulphate from lithium bearing silicates”. The innovations covered by the patents provide LIT’s SiLeach® process with an unprecedented advantage, that of lithium recovery from the process liquors without the requirement for extensive evaporation. This remarkable breakthrough may also have application to process streams other than those generated by SiLeach®, such as, conventional spodumene conversion, mica sulfation roasting or lithium-containing waste waters.
LIT’s acquisition of VSPC LTD (formerly Very Small Particle Company Ltd) (VSPC) provides access to the most lucrative part of the lithium-ion battery (LIB) production cycle – the production of cathode powders. This process can be integrated with SiLeach® to provide a path from mine waste to LIB production. This is soon to be achieved with lithium micas from Western Australia which will be used to generate cathode powders.