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Corporate Spotlight

Lithium Australia NL (LIT, formerly Cobre Montana NL) is a developer of disruptive lithium extraction technologies. LIT has strategic alliances with a number of companies, potentially providing access to a diversified lithium mineral inventory.
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Adrian Griffin discusses Lithium Valley

FORMS ALLIANCE

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Lithium Australia forms alliance with leading Chinese battery producer 

ASX Announcement 9 May 2019 


Highlights 

Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has signed a letter of intent ('LoI') with leading Chinese battery producer DLG Battery Co. Ltd. ('DLG') to: 


  • establish a 50:50 jointly owned business for the supply and sale of DLG lithiumion batteries (LIBs), packs and modules in Australia, and 
  • form a technology alliance that will fast-track the commercialisation of VSPC Ltd's patented cathode powders for use in DLG batteries.


Adrian Griffin, of Lithium Australia, and Jeffery Wu, of DMG, signing the LoI. 


Background 

Lithium Australia (or 'the Company') has taken a major step forward commercially in its aim of becoming a major provider of battery materials and recycling solutions to the fastgrowing energy storage industry. 


As one of the 10 largest battery manufacturers in China, DLG has six development and manufacturing facilities there, as well as sales and support offices in the United States and Europe. DLG is a leading developer and manufacturer of cylindrical LIB cells, packs and systems, producing not only lithium-iron-phosphate ('LFP') and lithium-nickelmanganese-cobalt ('NMC') battery cell types but also battery-management-system and pack technology. Having developed significant intellectual property (more than 50 issued patents), DLG sells products for use in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, energystorage systems, e-bikes and many other applications that require high-quality LIBs, and has customers in every major world market.


DLG has been working with the Company to test (in China) LFP cathode powders produced by VSPC Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of Lithium Australia) at its pilot plant in Brisbane, Australia. DLG used the VSPC powders to manufacture commercial LFP cells in China.


Market opportunity 

Together, DLG and Lithium Australia have identified constraints in the delivery of LIBs into the Australian supply chain, and they see an exciting business opportunity in rectifying those supply difficulties.


Under the LoI, DLG and the Company intend to incorporate 'Lithium Australia DLG' as a 50:50-owned business, the aim of which is to ameliorate supply chain constraints for LIB batteries, packs and modules entering the Australian market.


The new Lithium Australia DLG business will apply the following supply-chain solutions. 


  • Improve the availability of LFP and NMC LIBs to equipment manufacturers and consumers in the Australian market. 
  • Maintain local (Australian) stock levels to meet demand. 
  • Manufacture packs and modules within Australia. 
  • Produce an Australian DLG/VSPC battery for both local and global markets. 
  • Offer a battery-recycling solution through Lithium Australia's recycling business unit.


As part of the Company's undertaking to DLG, it will complete a business plan designed to service the burgeoning demand for LIBs in Australia. There will be a particular focus on the energy-storage industry, a sector in which Australia is experiencing strong growth. 


And, as part of establishing the business, Lithium Australia has agreed to purchase an initial battery inventory through the issue of 12,500,000 Company shares to DLG at the prevailing market price of 8 cents per share.


Click here to view the full announcement

SWARM DISCOVERED

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Spodumene pegmatite swarm discovered at Lithium Australia’s Medcalf Prospect Lake Johnston, WA 

ASX Announcement 15 April 2019 


Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT) identified lithium pegmatite swarms at the Medcalf Prospect, part of the Lake Johnston Project (Figure 1) in 2018. Medcalf lies within the highly lithiumprospective Yilgarn Craton which hosts major lithium deposits at Earl Grey (Kidman Resources and SQM) Mt Marion (NeoMetals, Gangfeng and Mineral Resources) and Mt Catlin (Galaxy). Much of the mineralisation within these deposits, including Medcalf and Lithium Australia’s nearby Mt Day prospect, has similar geological features to that observed at Medcalf and Lithium Australia’s nearby Mt Day prospect. The lithium pegmatites of the Yilgarn Craton are attracting investment from some of the world’s largest lithium companies.


HIGHLIGHTS 

  • Recent exploration confirms significant extent of pegmatite swarms 
  • Numerous stacked pegmatites with abundant spodumene 
  • Lithium soil anomaly suggests possible extensions under cover 
  • Spodumene samples are very low in deleterious elements 
  • Drill target defined with drilling planned to commence in Q4


Figure 1 Location of Medcalf Lithium Project 


Fieldwork undertaken at Medcalf (Figure 1) in January 2019 (see ASX announcement 5 February 2019) confirmed the outcrop of a spodumene enriched pegmatite swarm is 450m long and 100m wide that trends in a northwest-southeast direction (Figure 2).


Figure 2 - Medcalf Interpreted Geology 


Fieldwork included a geochemical soil sampling program over an area of 1300m x 700m centered on the outcropping pegmatites. The soil assay results for Lithium (Li) are highly elevated with only 30% of the assay results less than 100ppm Li. (see Figure 3).


Figure 3 – Medcalf lithium soil anomaly. 


Click here to view the full announcement

BATTERY RECYCLING MADE EASY

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Battery recycling made easy 

ASX Announcement 4 April 2019 


An initiative of Lithium Australia (ASX:LIT) and Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd


Right now, Australia lags behind the rest of the world in battery recycling, in that only 3% – predominantly lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) – are returned for reprocessing. Recycling such materials onshore could augment the federal government’s Critical Minerals Strategy, formally launched in March 2019. That strategy, while strongly focused on raw materials and supply chains, acknowledges the impact of innovation in processing to recover not only primary metals but also a range of by-products. Battery recycling relies on innovations of this type for sustainable and ethical supply of materials back into the battery-production cycle. The environmental benefits are also enormous because, aside from housing critical elements in high concentrations, batteries contain toxins in the form of electrolytes – materials that should never be relegated to landfill.


HIGHLIGHTS 

  • Lithium Australia to acquire a significant equity position in recycling company Envirostream. 
  • This technical partnership will develop methods to retrieve critical metals from spent batteries within Australia. 
  • Recovery of such metals will support sustainable battery development. 
  • There is potential for these critical metals to be retained within the Australian battery supply chain. 
  • Stewardship of, and the creation of an ethical supply chain for, battery metals will be facilitated. 
  • Expansion of existing operations will create local jobs and more employment opportunities within the battery sector. 
  • There is the potential to 'close the loop' for LIB materials.


An Australian first 

Lithium Australia recognises Victorian-based Envirostream as the national leader in the primary reprocessing of LIBs. At present, it operates the only facility in Australia for shredding such batteries, producing a powder containing critical metals that is then exported for refining. Meanwhile, Lithium Australia is developing a hydrometallurgical flow sheet for the processing of powders of this type, in order to extract the chemicals (nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium compounds) required to regenerate battery cathodes, with simultaneous recovery of graphite from the battery anodes.


Combining the key competencies of Lithium Australia and Envirostream will allow the latter to expand its operations, thereby ensuring that critical metals recovered from recycled batteries remain under Australian control to the point of sale. Moreover, it's anticipated that this joint venture will create new jobs, including employment opportunities in the battery industry not previously available within Australia.


Logistics expertise 

Australia’s failure to achieve adequate battery-recycling rates has been exacerbated by inadequate collection networks. Envirostream, which has considerable experience in battery collection, will roll out its own collection strategy to deal with the rapidly increasing quantity of spent batteries nationally.


The acquisition 

Lithium Australia is to acquire a total of 560 shares (presently 18.9%) of Envirostream’s issued capital, as follows.


  • Tranche 1 payment of $300,000 (240 shares) scheduled for completion 6 April 2019. 
  • Tranche 2 payment of $100,000 scheduled for completion 15 June 2019 (80 shares). 
  • Tranche 3 payment of $100,000 scheduled for completion 15 July 2019 (80 shares). 
  • Tranche 4 payment of $100,000 in Lithium Australia scrip scheduled for completion 15 August 2019 (160 shares).


Future development 

The funds Lithium Australia provides to Envirostream will be used to expand the latter’s batteryshredding facilities. Meanwhile, Lithium Australia will continue its research into the chemical processing of alkaline batteries and LIBs. It is anticipated that Lithium Australia will complete the design of its flow sheet for the hydrometallurgical recovery of metals from LIBs later this year.


The VSPC opportunity 

Critical metals and/or their compounds generated from spent batteries can potentially feed the production of cathode powder via Lithium Australia's wholly-owned VSPC technology. VSPC manufactures cathode powders at its Brisbane pilot-plant facility, and these powders are currently being testing by battery manufacturers in China, Japan and India.


Comment from the Managing Director 

“Sustainable and ethical supply of critical materials is a global challenge. Maximizing the recycling of ALL battery metals, something rarely done effectively, is a target we have achieved in university-controlled testing. We have not limited ourselves to lithium ion batteries, but have included alkaline batteries with the aim of eliminating all such spent items from landfill. We are cognizant of the environmental implications of burying such “waste” and encourage all users of these products to join with us and recycle for the future benefit of the environment. And we have a message for OEMS as well – we have a plan, we have the ability and we have the solution to your long-awaited battery stewardship requirements.” 


Click here to view the full announcement

THE KEY TO RENEWABLE ENERGY

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Domestic Lithium Cathode Production The key to renewable energy security 

ASX Announcement 20 March 2019 


Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT) has launched its preliminary feasibility study on the Sadisdorf lithium/tin deposit in Germany. The study will evaluate the direct production of cathode powders, lithium iron phosphate (LFP) in particular, from mica feed material. This mica is usually considered waste from this, and similar, tin mining operations.


Recovery of the mica, and direct production of cathode powders from it, is a strategy that enables the domestic supply of cathode materials requiring neither cobalt or nickel, thus providing supply chain security.


LFP batteries, which have many features superior to other battery chemistries, are ideally suited to applications in the energy storage systems (ESS) that provide backup for renewable energy.


The combination of: 

  • domestic supply, 
  • direct production of cathode powders, and 
  • local manufacture of LFP batteries


provides not only supply chain security but also helps in achieving long-term security for the energy industry. 


Lithium Australia has a suite of technologies – all tested at pilot scale – to deliver highperformance LFP cathode materials from domestic sources into such markets, thereby improving energy security.


Recently Lithium Australia initiated the Australian Battery Consortium, in order to pursue similar opportunities in Australia.


Lithium Australia also plans to monetise its control position in the Electra project in Mexico. There, it holds ground both north and south of Bacanora Lithium’s giant Sonora lithium clay deposit, and has identified significant mineralisation in that ground. Lithium Australia’s strategic positioning in the ESS supply chain is the subject of a presentation (below) to the Informa Lithium and Battery Metals Conference in Perth, Western Australia on 20 March, 2019.


Click here to view the full announcement

SPODUMENE REFINING

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LITHIUM AUSTRALIA'S LieNA® PROCESS OFFERS AN ALTERNATIVE TO CONVENTIONAL SPODUMENE REFINING

ASX Announcement 21 February 2019 


HIGHLIGHTS 

  • Lithium Australia’s 100%-owned LieNA® process represents a step change in spodumene refining by way of improved resource utilisation and potential regeneration of reagents. 
  • Based on the success of LieNA® research and development (R&D) to date, Lithium Australia believes further process development is warranted, and has begun the next stage of this at ANSTO.


Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) developed and owns the LieNA® process, which is designed specifically to overcome the shortfalls inherent in conventional 'conversion' processes that recover lithium from spodumene.


As discussed at 121 Mining Investment in South Africa (see ASX announcement dated 4 February 2019), the LieNA® process replaces thermal conversion of spodumene with conversion at a lower temperature using caustic soda (see Figure 1 below). Once converted, the lithium is selectively leached and recovered as tri-lithium phosphate.


LieNA® offers a number of potential advantages over conventional spodumene conversion, including: 

  • improved resource utilisation, due to its ability to process fine spodumene concentrates; 
  • the ability to regenerate reagents used in the process; 
  • lower energy consumption; 
  • a smaller environmental footprint, and 
  • removal of the requirement for sodium sulphate production.


Lithium Australia recently completed preliminary R&D on the process at ANSTO, supported by a conceptual engineering assessment on the applicability of the LieNA® flowsheet to spodumene feed material. The outcomes of this indicated that further development of the process was warranted.


During the next stage of R&D, already commenced at ANSTO, final product synthesis, refining and the recycling of reagents will be examined.


The aim of this work effort, which is scheduled to continue throughout 2019, is to confirm sufficient technical criteria to commit to a pilot plant programme.


Figure 1. Simplified LieNA® process flowsheet. 


COMMENT FROM LITHIUM AUSTRALIA MANAGING DIRECTOR ADRIAN GRIFFIN 

“The application of LieNA® to the production of lithium chemicals from spodumene and petalite concentrates removes some of the constraints inherent in conventional lithium refining. LieNA® has the potential to provide a flexible, environmentally conscious and commercially competitive option for the treatment of spodumene concentrates.” 


Click here to view the full announcement

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