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Cemvita Factory and Arizona Lithium collaborate on bio-lixiviant production tech testing

Cemvita Factory and Arizona Lithium Limited have announced the signing of a broad Letter of Intent (LOI) encompassing Cemvita installing a bio-lixiviant production facility at AZL’s Lithium Research Center in Tempe, Arizona.

With this facility, Cemvita will perform pilot testing on both tank and heap bioleaching for lithium extraction from clay or sedimentary materials.

Using industrial biotechnology, Cemvita intends to revolutionise the mining industry and lower the environmental footprint of mining.

Cemvita’s Biomining team works with companies to optimise existing bioprocesses and develop new methods in mineral processing and extractive metallurgy to lower the energy and carbon intensity of the mining industry and enable extraction of the minerals needed for a renewable energy future, it says. Processes that can be enhanced by the latest industrial biotech apply across the entire mining supply chain including mining and mineral pre-processing, in-situ recovery, leaching, beneficiation, remediation and recycling.

Carbon intensity of lithium from sedimentary resources is expected to be substantially lower than hard-rock operations, and with a lower water use footprint compared with brine resources.

“Cemvita’s natural organic extraction technology takes sustainability further, opening the opportunity for even lower cost operations such as heap and in-situ leaching,” the company said. “Heap and in-situ leaching provide a substantially lower physical, chemical and energy footprint.”

Cemvita’s Vice President Mining Biotech, Marny Reakes, said: “This pilot work in Arizona is a great step forward in our drive to both reduce the footprint of mining and unlock the mineral resources that are crucial for our planet’s renewable energy future.”

AZL and Cemvita also plan to work towards deploying this technology for in-situ mining. This process aims to eliminate much of the ground disturbance and waste generation associated with typical mining operations.

Charles Nelson, Chief Business Officer of Cemvita, said: “Our goal is to enable the most environmentally friendly end-to-end process of mining lithium through the application of our technology. This includes utilising cleaner methods of extraction with the option of layering Cemvita’s other beneficial technologies, such as CO2 based fuels and decarbonising processing, in the mining space.”

Arizona Lithium’s Research Center, located in Tempe, is a facility designed as a commercial pilot to allow both AZL and third-party producers to take large volumes of ore from their prospective mines and test all components of the processing of the ore through the production of various grades of battery-grade lithium materials. The facility is planned to be in operation in early 2023.

AZL Managing Director, Paul Lloyd, said: “We are very pleased to have signed this partnership with Cemvita. We are focused on our responsibility to our shareholders and to the environment, and believe that both of these stakeholders will greatly benefit from the successful implementation of Cemvita’s technology. We aim to be a model for sustainable development, and be the pioneer for Lithium producers to use technology like Cemvita’s. We are excited to see the results of the partnership start to show in the next three-to-six months at which time we will assess further partnership potential.”

AZL is currently focused on the Big Sandy project in Arizona, which is characterised largely by flat-lying basin sediments comprising predominantly of analcime and potassic alteration zones. The green lacustrine lithium bearing horizon is traceable for over 11 km from north to south and extends at least 2 km to the east as a flat sheet at or near surface, according to the company.