Rio Tinto has started producing spodumene concentrate, which is used in the production of lithium for batteries, at a demonstration plant at its Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium (RTIT) Quebec Operations metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Canada.
The plant will demonstrate at industrial scale a new spodumene concentration process that provides lithium oxide (Li20) grades and “recoveries well above the industry average.” The process was developed by researchers at Rio Tinto’s Critical Minerals and Technology Centre and tested on spodumene ore samples from various countries. It offers the environmental benefit of not using chemical products and generating only dry, inert residues.
RTIT Managing Director Stéphane Leblanc said: “Rio Tinto is exploring new, sustainable ways to extract battery materials for the energy transition. We are seeing strong interest in the market for a North American supply of spodumene concentrate to support production of lithium batteries. Our demonstration plant will allow us to further validate the innovative spodumene concentration process developed at our Critical Minerals and Technology Centre as we consider moving to commercial scale production.”
The demonstration plant was commissioned in June after successful laboratory testing of the new process and produced its first ton of spodumene concentrate in July 2022. It will test ore from various local suppliers including Sayona, an emerging lithium producer with projects in Quebec and Western Australia.