Lithium from the Canadian Shield

Gregg Hill of XPS notes that “lithium mining is a Canadian growth industry, with Canadian hard rock deposits offering some distinct advantages for high-tech lithium markets.

“The battery industry has continued to push the envelope for product purity, especially with respect to control of magnesium and iron contamination. Historically the majority of commercial lithium has been obtained from brines and evaporitic deposits; however, brine sources are typically magnesium rich, and purification must be achieved hydrometallurgically.

“Mineral sources of lithium (spodumene LiAlSi2O6, or petalite LiAlSi4O10) have the advantage of containing no iron or magnesium, and are frequently hosted within rocks that also contain minimal iron and magnesium. As a result of this, hard rock lithium deposits which were historically considered to be economically disadvantageous relative to brine lithium resources have now emerged as attractive sources of exceptionally pure lithium materials. Mineral sources of lithium from the Canadian shield have come into their own.

“XPS is proud to be working with Frontier Lithium in the development of the Pakeagama Lake (PAK) lithium project. Located 175 km north of Red Lake, the PAK project contains over 8 Mt of ore at ~1.8% Li2O equivalent. The project anticipates the initial stage production of about 1,000 t/d of ore into a lithium concentrate containing over 7% Li2O.”

A picture of the ore zone is shown

“The upgrading task involves separation of spodumene from associated quartz and feldspars, as well as removal of trace diluents and contaminants. Crushed ore is upgraded by dense media separation (DMS) and is subjected to desliming and gravity separation (Ta recovery) followed by flotation for removal of micas and associated fluorine; separation of spodumene from gangue silicates (quartz and feldspar); reverse flotation for the removal of phosphates and tourmaline; and finally, wet high-intensity magnetic separation (WHIMS) for the reduction of iron to exacting specifications (<0.1% Fe2O3).

“Development of the flowsheet has relied upon a combination of past industrial practice, mineralogical characterization by QEMSCAN, and laboratory testing of ore samples from the PAK deposit. Since the success of the project revolves around exacting control and reduction of potential contaminants, rigorous quality control methodologies are a key to project success.

“The flotation products from the PAK project are suitable for sale into the glass industry, which will make up the initial market for concentrates; however, XPS will continue to work with Frontier Lithium in downstream development for the conversion of lithium concentrate into chemical products. Lithium concentrate will be converted through decrepitation, acid baking and leaching/precipitation to produce battery grade lithium carbonate and or hydroxide products.

“Frontier Lithium intends to spearhead the production of high quality battery grade lithium within Northern Ontario, establishing our region as a significant Canadian contributor to clean energy technology. XPS is extremely proud to be involved with Frontier Lithium in this groundbreaking and challenging project.”