Lithium Australia (ASX:LIT) is one step closer to realising their SiLeach® solution, a propriety chemical process that converts waste lithium concentrates into lithium carbonate without requiring the costly roasting step.
The Western Australian government has given the green light to allow the recovery of waste material from the Lepodite Hill project near Coolgardie. The recovered material will form part of the feed required for the company’s pilot plant in the Goldfields region, which could potentially produce 2500 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year.
SiLeach® is a “first of its kind” technology that is highly efficient in digesting and recovering important metals such as lithium from treated material. Lithium is normally recovered from spodumene concentrates, with lithium micas often wasted as an unusable product.
The conventional process requires an energy intensive roasting step which contributes significantly to the overall cost of lithium production. Unlike the conventional process, SiLeach® is a hydro-metallurgical process and therefore does not require the roasting phase. If proven successful, this could allow lithium producers to economically process material that would have been previously considered sub economic.
The company’s program to recover the lepidolite (lithium mica) is still subject to further approvals, however if successful could have a major impact on the lithium processing industry as a whole.
Managing Director Adrian Griffin said
“Obtaining approval for excess tonnage advances our aim of producing lithium-ion batteries from mine waste. That will begin with the application of our 100% owned SiLeach® process to produce the lithium component. We are well advanced with a pilot plant run at ANSTO Minerals (a division of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) to generate the materials that will be used to further process that lithium in our Brisbane based VSPC facility.
The production of batteries from mine waste will be a world first. VSPC will officially complete the commissioning of its Brisbane cathode powder pilot plant on 6 September 2018. This momentous occasion will be celebrated with an opening ceremony on that day.”