Successfully Produces LH From Spodumene Concentrate In Australia
Australian lithium developer Core Lithium Ltd (ASX: CXO) has reported production of battery grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (LH) from spodumene mineral concentrate from the Finniss Lithium Project.
The scoping level test work programme has demonstrated that the conventional ‘direct’ flowsheet can be applied to the processing of the mineral concentrate sample to produce battery grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate.
In light of the success of this program and the recently granted Federal Government Major Projects status, Core is now considering the obvious down-stream value potential given the Project’s synergies with the adjacent Middle-Arm industrial infrastructure near Darwin. As well as the alignment with Australia’s Modern Manufacturing strategy, and the rapid expansion of global lithium battery supply chains to meet the demands of the ever-increasing LIB, electric vehicle (EV) and renewable energy markets.
Demonstration of the production of battery grade LH in this programme provides Core and its customers confidence in the value of the Finniss Project, its importance to Australia’s northern regional economy, and strengthening Australia’s position further downstream in the global lithium battery supply chain.
Core remains focussed on completing the Finniss Lithium Project concentrate DFS and finalising current live off-take negotiations ahead of reaching a Final Investment Decision (FID) in Q3 2021.
The test work programme was completed by the Minerals Business Unit of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). ANSTO is one of Australia’s largest public research organisations and its Minerals personnel have extensive lithium processing experience with hard rock and brine feedstocks, to produce high purity chemical concentrates required for the manufacture of lithium ion batteries (LIBs).
The main objective of the test work program was to demonstrate the production of ‘battery grade’ LH using a sample of the Finniss Project spodumene mineral concentrate composited from previous Grants and BP33 gravity concentrate test work. Scoping level test work was conducted on the major unit processes of the ‘direct’ conversion approach.
The ‘direct’ conversion flowsheet involves decrepitation, sulfation baking / water leaching, purification, Glauber salt crystallisation and lithium hydroxide crystallisations.
The test work programme was specifically designed to confirm the suitability of the major unit processes and provide an increased level of confidence in the process modelling.
Managing Director, Stephen Biggins, said the most critical factor to the successful extraction of lithium from spodumene mineral concentrates is the decrepitation step and the complete conversion of α- to β-spodumene. This has been achieved for the samples of the initial Finniss spodumene mineral concentrate, with additional mineralogical data increasing confidence in the processibility of the mineral concentrate.
Following decrepitation to β-spodumene, the major unit processes of a conventional ‘direct’ process flowsheet can be applied to convert the contained lithium to lithium hydroxide monohydrate, which satisfies the commonly referenced Livent battery grade LH specification.
The knowledge of the process chemistry associated with all the major unit processes, especially each stage of LH crystallisation, gained from this program has allowed development of a preliminary process model.
“Today’s announcement confirms that battery grade lithium hydroxide suitable for high-end uses in the lithium battery, renewable energy and electric vehicle industries, can be produced from Core’s excellent quality lithium concentrate produced from the Finniss Project,” Mr Biggins said.
“This successful proof-of-concept test work provides Core, and our customers, the confidence in utilising Finniss lithium concentrates in the global lithium battery supply chain.
“Together with the recent award of Major Project Status from the Federal Government, this programme lays a foundation for Core to explore the potential of adding downstream processing infrastructure to our portfolio, incorporating the strong synergies with the infrastructure at the nearby Middle-Arm Industrial Precinct at Darwin Port and aligning with Australia’s national Modern Manufacturing Strategy and expansion of the Global lithium battery supply chain.”