Tag Archives: lithium hydroxide

Zinnwald striving for battery-electric circularity with lithium project development

The development of the integrated Zinnwald lithium project in Germany could see the incorporation of a battery-electric fleet of LHDs and the return of metal production to a region of saxony with mining history dating back to the Middle Ages.

The London-listed owner of the project, Zinnwald Lithium Plc, has just released a preliminary economic study on its namesake project focused on supplying battery-grade lithium hydroxide to the European battery sector.

As with any responsible battery metal project being developed today, the project’s ‘green credentials’ are being considered even at this early stage.

Zinnwald Lithium has been keen to flag these, mentioning the project is located close to the German chemical industry, a fact that should enable it to draw on a well trained and experienced workforce with well-developed infrastructure, plus reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ of the final end-use product.

This focus will see all aspects of the project – from mining through to production of the end product – located near to the deposit itself.

Zinnwald Lithium also said the project has the potential to be a low- or ‘zero-waste’ project, as the vast majority of both its mined product and co-products have their own large-scale end-markets.

This could see it produce not only battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate products, but sulphate of potash (SOP) for the fertiliser market and precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) – the latter being a key filling material in the paper manufacturing process.

The project now includes an underground mine with a nominal output of approximately 880,000 t/y of ore at an estimated 3,004 ppm Li and 75,000 t/y of barren rock. Processing, including mechanical separation, lithium activation and lithium fabrication, will be carried out at an industrial facility near the village of Bärenstein, near the existing underground mine access and an existing site for tailings deposition with significant remaining capacity.

With a 7-km partly-existing network of underground drives and adits from the ‘Zinnerz Altenberg’ tin mine, which closed in 1991, already mapped out, the bulk of ore haulage is expected to be via either conveyor or rail

The nominal output capacity of the project is targeted at circa-12,000 t/y LiOH with circa-56,900 t/y of SOP, 16,000 t/y of PCC, circa-75,000 t/y of granite and 100,000 t/y of sand as by-products.

The company is looking to complete the ‘circularity’ dynamic in its fleet and equipment selection, according to CEO, Anton Du Plessis, who mentioned that electric LHDs could be used to load and haul ore to an ore pass in the envisaged operation.

He said the cost estimates to use such equipment – which are factored into the project’s $336.5 million initial construction capital expenditure bill – have come from Epiroc, which has a variety of battery-operated mobile equipment.

“The base case is battery-operated loaders,” he told IM. “The final selection will be based on an optimisation study where, in particular, partly trolley-fed haulage systems will be investigated.”

Forms of automation are also being studied, Du Plessis said, with the caveat that “only select technologies we consider proven” will be evaluated.

Zinnwald Lithium is also looking at electric options for long-hole drilling underground, with both battery-based units and cabled versions under consideration and requiring firming up in the optimisation study.

With a 7-km partly-existing network of underground drives and adits from the ‘Zinnerz Altenberg’ tin mine, which closed in 1991, already mapped out, the bulk of ore haulage is expected to be via either conveyor or rail. The former, of course, will be powered by electricity, but the company is also considering potential battery-electric options for the latter, according to Du Plessis.

The company is blessed with existing infrastructure at the mine, which should help it in advancing the project at the pace its potential end-use manufacturing suppliers would like. It is already evaluating options for the construction stage – with an engineering, procurement and construction management contract the most likely option – and it has plans to conclude a feasibility study by the end of next year.

Du Plessis said while most of the fixed assets have been removed or were deemed outdated a long time ago from the former operating underground mine, other infrastructure was in good shape.

“The excavations, main level, underground workshop, ventilation shafts and, particularly, 2020 refurbished access tunnel provide a very good starting point for our project,” he said. “The access tunnel was originally constructed for dewatering the old mine and, therefore, the mine and the tunnel have been maintained very well.”

The company is now shifting to the bankable feasibility study and currently selecting partners for the project.

With what it calls a “simple, five-stage processing” route confirmed by test work for the extracted material at Zinnwald, the company is looking to select OEMs with the optimal concept for the project, Du Plessis said.

“In the PEA, mineral processing equipment cost is based on Metso Outotec estimates, pyrometallurgy is based on Cemtec technology, and hydrometallurgy is based on various providers’ technology,” he clarified.

Tianqi and IGO herald battery-grade lithium milestone at Kwinana refinery

Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia Pty Ltd (TLEA) has announced first production of battery-grade lithium from its plant in Kwinana, Western Australia, marking the first time battery-grade lithium, or lithium hydroxide monohydrate (LHM), has been produced in Australia in commercial quantities.

This is a significant milestone for TLEA and Australian mining as the sector expands to meet rapidly growing demand for rechargeable batteries, primarily from the electric vehicle and energy storage system industries, TLEA, a joint venture between IGO (49%) and Tianqi Lithium (51%), says.

TLEA’s Kwinana plant has successfully met internal certification processes with the on-site laboratory confirming that battery-grade specification has been met on 10 t of lithium hydroxide, produced consistently over several days. Samples have been sent for independent verification, TLEA says.

The next step in the plant’s ramp-up process is customer qualification, which will be completed over the next four to eight months. During this time, the plant will continue to focus on stable, consistent and reliable production of battery-grade lithium.

“We are immensely proud to demonstrate that Australia can value add to its minerals onshore as it enhances its reputation as a critical contributor to the production of batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage, which are absolutely vital for the decarbonisation of the world’s economy,” TLK Chief Operating Officer, Raj Surendran, said.

“This is an exciting time for our shareholders, suppliers and service providers who have contributed to the construction and ramp-up of the Kwinana Plant, and our employees who have worked so hard to turn the dream of producing battery-grade lithium hydroxide in Australia into a reality.

“Today’s milestone proves Australia has the capability and expertise to transition from a ‘dig it and ship it’ minerals supplier to a downstream supplier of value-added product.

“However, we also remain acutely aware that there is more work to do to establish the Kwinana plant as a reliable, significant producer of battery-grade lithium, starting with customer acceptance.”

TLEA owns the first lithium hydroxide plant in Australia and the largest in the world to be built and operated outside of China. Lithium hydroxide produced at the plant will be containerised and exported from the Port of Fremantle to customers around the globe.

Surendran said the first train at TLEA’s Kwinana Plant will now continue its ramp-up towards its nameplate capacity of 24,000 t/y of battery grade lithium hydroxide.

Lithium hydroxide is a lithium-based compound derived from spodumene, a lithium-bearing pegmatite mineral. Spodumene is sourced directly from the Greenbushes mine 250 km southwest of Kwinana (Albemarle 50%, Tianqi Corporation 25%, IGO Ltd 25%).

KIZAD and Lepidico to collaborate on Middle East’s first lithium production facility

Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), a subsidiary of AD Ports Group’s Industrial Cities & Free Zone (IC&FZ) cluster, has announced the signing of an agreement with Lepidico Ltd, a lithium exploration and development company, for establishing the first lithium production facility in the Middle East, utilising a first-of-its-kind process.

Covering a land area of 57,000 sq.m, the first phase of Lepidico’s development for the AED348 million ($95 million) chemical plant will house clean-tech L-Max® and LOH-Max® process technologies. The process extracts lithium and recovers valuable by-products from lithium mica and phosphate minerals. As an eco-friendly, zero-waste facility, the residue, predominantly gypsum, will be repurposed for use in the construction industry, KIZAD said.

Abdullah Al Hameli, Head of Industrial Cities & Free Zone Cluster, AD Ports Group, said: “AD Ports Group is committed to supporting cutting-edge innovative solutions that advance industrial development within the UAE. Lepidico’s process technology also aligns with our sustainability principles and our vision to support innovative environmental solutions that contribute to the long-term sustainable development of Abu Dhabi, as outlined by the leadership of the emirate.

“We are pleased to host an innovative and environmentally-conscious company like Lepidico, which aims to establish the region’s first lithium production facility in the Middle East, located in KIZAD. The project is a critical enabler for developing an electric vehicle supply chain in the Middle East.”

Joe Walsh, Managing Director, Lepidico, said: “The signing of the agreement represents an important milestone in developing the first phase of the new chemical plant and enables critical path geotechnical and infrastructure EPCM works to commence.

“In our endeavour to developing a sustainable lithium industry, we plan to integrate social, economic, environmental, and health and safety opportunities as part of the project design criteria and strive for a zero-waste process through our innovative and proprietary technologies. We look forward to working with AD Ports Group as we bring the lithium chemical industry to the UAE and wider Middle East region.”

The vertically integrated Phase 1 Project (P1P) comprises two small scale open-pit mines that will feed a mineral concentrator in Namibia, following which the lepidolite concentrate will be shipped to the facility being developed in KIZAD via Khalifa Port.

Lepidico plans to invest approximately $95 million for the chemical conversion plant in Abu Dhabi for an initial term of 25 years, which will employ the company’s proprietary process technologies, L-Max and LOH-Max. The project is a significant step forward in developing a sustainable lithium hydroxide industry and supports the global clean energy revolution, the companies said.

HALMEK LITHIUM to work with Metso Outotec on lithium hydroxide plant

HALMEK LITHIUM has selected Metso Outotec’s patented lithium hydroxide process for production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide at its greenfield plant in the Tula region in Russia.

The order value, which is not disclosed, has been booked in the company’s Metals June quarter orders received.

Metso Outotec’s scope of delivery consists of the engineering and key equipment supply for the lithium hydroxide process, the basis of which will be the Metso Outotec OKTOP® autoclave plant. The environmentally sound production process is one of Metso Outotec’s more than 100 Planet Positive products, the company said.

Pavel Galchenko, VP, Halmek Lithium, said: “One of the most important tasks in the project was the selection of technology. Instead of the more traditional sulphuric acid processing to produce lithium hydroxide, we decided to choose the Metso Outotec lithium hydroxide process as it is the most promising and environmentally-sound process at the moment.

“The pilot tests conducted at the Metso Outotec Research Center in Pori, Finland, provided excellent results.”

Mikko Rantaharju, Vice President, Hydrometallurgy business line at Metso Outotec, said: “Metso Outotec has developed lithium hard rock-related technologies for some 20 years now. It started with the battery-grade lithium carbonate process and, when the market changed to favour lithium hydroxide, the process flowsheet was converted to directly produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate from spodumene.

“Both of the processes are patented and will be significant assets in our battery chemicals business, meeting the need to produce high-end lithium-ion battery chemistries for the growing market.”

HALMEK LITHIUM’s new hydrometallurgical plant, which will complement its existing lithium hydroxide plant, is currently under construction. As raw material, the new plant will use spodumene concentrate; it will feature a capacity of 20,000 t/y of battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, which is used in the production of batteries for electric vehicles. The first production line is planned to start up in 2023, and the second production line with a capacity of 20,000 t/y is expected to start production in 2026.

FLSmidth to provide process engineering input for Keliber’s lithium project

Keliber says it has appointed FLSmidth to provide process engineering services at its Päiväneva concentrator plant in Finland.

The two parties have reportedly agreed on the provision of process, layout and mechanical engineering services at the concentrator.

Hannu Hautala, CEO of Keliber, said: “We have chosen a partner with considerable experience in the mining industry, including lithium production. Our goal is to build a world-class plant that utilises the best available technology, which means safe, environmentally friendly and cost-optimised production.”

Mikko Keto, Mining President at FLSmidth, added: “We are delighted to receive this process engineering order from Keliber. It is a strong proof point of our know-how in the lithium arena, where we have been a leading provider of high-performing equipment, solutions and expertise for well over 20 years. We now look forward to this next step of designing an efficient, world class, concentrator flowsheet, in line with our MissionZero program.”

The award of the contract regarding the concentrator plant continues Keliber’s cooperation with FLSmidth, which will soon also see the completion of the basic engineering of high temperature conversion rotary kiln technology at Keliber’s chemical plant, located in Kokkola.

The concentrator will be built in the Päiväneva area of Finland, which is located on the border of the municipalities of Kaustinen and Kruunupyy, and within the immediate vicinity of Keliber’s lithium deposits. At the concentrator plant, ore will be processed into spodumene concentrate, which will then be transported to the chemical plant in Kokkola, where it will be further processed into lithium hydroxide.

Piedmont Lithium enlists SGS Canada for pilot-scale spodumene work

Piedmont Lithium has agreed to partner with SGS Canada in Lakefield, Ontario, to complete a pilot-scale spodumene concentrator program at its namesake project in North Carolina, USA.

The company collected over 50 t of mineralised pegmatite from 17 locations across its core properties in February. These near-surface samples were from locations representing early, middle and late-stage planned production at the development.

Piedmont said the pilot plant design will be based on the results of prior test work programs and will be used to support both the definitive feasibility study (DFS) of the company’s planned concentrate operations, as well as detailed design engineering of full-scale operations.

The pilot program will target production of a large sample of spodumene concentrate with at least 6% Li2O and less than 1% Fe2O3 for use in future pilot-scale lithium hydroxide test work programs that Piedmont intends to complete as part of the DFS of its planned integrated lithium chemical plant. The tests will involve “dense medium and flotation” pilot work, Piedmont said.

The ASX-listed company said this test work is a “critical step in ensuring future commissioning and ramp-up success” at the project.

“Additionally, the bulk sample collected targeted a range of potential concentrator feed conditions, including low-grade zones and diluted feed,” the company said. “Testing variable conditions rather than an optimised feed will help inform engineering design and eliminate potential operational bottlenecks during the project design phase.”

Keith Phillips, President and Chief Executive Officer of Piedmont, said: “The program will enable Piedmont to complete future lithium hydroxide test work programs and also supply large sample of spodumene to our key customer, Tesla, for their own testing purposes.”

The prefeasibility study on the Piedmont lithium project, released earlier this year, envisaged two options – a “Merchant” project and an “Integrated” project. Both included an annual average lithium hydroxide production (steady-state) of 22,720 t, but only the latter included 160,000 t/y of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate production over the 25-year mine life.

SCEE to work on Kemerton lithium hydroxide facility

Southern Cross Electrical Engineering (SCEE) says it has been awarded the electrical and instrumentation (E&I) works contract at the new Kemerton lithium hydroxide processing plant near Bunbury, Western Australia.

The Kemerton processing plant, owned 60% by Albemarle Corp through the MARBL lithium joint venture, will initially comprise of two trains, each with a production capacity of 25,000 t/y of lithium hydroxide. Production is scheduled to commence in 2021.

The award for SCEE is to deliver the full E&I scope for both the hydromet and pyromet sections of the plant with an approximate value of A$65 million ($44.8 million).

Engineering company Monadelphous Group is delivering the pyromet structural, mechanical and piping package of work, as well as associated piping fabrication for the plant.

SCEE’s work is due to commence around the end of the March quarter of 2020 and is due for completion in May 2021.

SCEE Managing Director, Graeme Dunn, said: “I am extremely pleased to announce such a major award in the resources sector’s growing lithium industry.”

SIMPEC to help with plant handover at Tianqi Lithium’s Kwinana plant

SIMPEC has added to its existing scope of works at the Tianqi Lithium-owned lithium hydroxide process plant (LHPP1) in Kwinana, Western Australia, with a new A$5 million ($3.34 million) contract to carry out structural, mechanical, piping, and electrical and instrumentation work at the operation.

This work, which comes on top of the pyromet piping installation contract the WestStar Industrial subsidiary was awarded by lead contractor MSP Engineering in 2018, will assist Tianqi with the handover of the plant to the operations team.

SIMPEC Managing Director, Mark Dimasi, said: “This award is a true reflection of our team’s performance to date on the LHPP1 project. An outstanding effort by everyone involved. I personally would like to thank all the MSP Engineering personnel for supporting our team over the past 10 months and Tianqi Lithium Kwinana for backing the incumbent SIMPEC site team.”

This new contract builds on previously announced extensions during the company’s 2020 financial year and brings contract awards received during the first half of this period to circa-A$23 million.

Pilbara Minerals and POSCO move a step closer to lithium chemical production JV

The Pilbara Minerals Board has conditionally exercised its option to enter into an incorporated joint venture with POSCO (for up to 30% participation) for the development of a downstream lithium chemical conversion facility in South Korea.

Pilbara Minerals’ Managing Director and CEO, Ken Brinsden, said the company’s relationship with POSCO had developed over the last year as it has continued to work through the Pilgangoora lithium project joint venture.

“It has been really pleasing to see the positive results generated by the due diligence work to date. The significant investment by POSCO into their PosLX technology has paid off and they have proven their ability to produce an industry leading, battery-ready lithium product through their innovative lithium purification process,” he said.

On October 2, 2018, Pilbara Minerals produced its first spodumene concentrate shipment from Pilgangoora. A total of 8,800 t (wet) of spodumene concentrate grading approximately 6.1% lithia and 1.2% Fe2O3 set sail from Port Hedland bound for the company’s offtake partners in north Asia.

The company’s agreement with POSCO encompasses long-term offtake, funding and the downstream conversion plant joint venture opportunity.

Brinsden said the rapid growth in lithium chemicals consumption in South Korea could see the country’s battery manufacturing sector supply around 25% of worldwide capacity by 2028, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

The downstream lithium facility, to be located in the Gwangyang Free Economic Zone in South Korea, would have up to 40,000 t/y of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) capacity and process spodumene from Pilgangoora using POSCO’s patented PosLX purification process.

Since the December quarter, Pilbara Minerals has been undertaking technical due diligence to assess the proposed chemical plant development and work to date has delivered promising results, it said.

“Due diligence has included a visit of technical staff and assessment of POSCO’s existing commercial operations plant using their PosLX technology, based on Pilbara Minerals’ spodumene delivered from the Pilgangoora project,” Pilbara Minerals said.

POSCO has developed its first commercial-scale operation (after the initial development of a pilot scale plant) that produces up to 2,500 t/y of lithium chemicals on an LCE basis, according to Pilbara Minerals. Based on spodumene chemical conversion, the plant has the capacity and flexibility to produce both high grade lithium hydroxide, or, alternately, lithium carbonate products with low impurities in the final products produced.

Pilbara Minerals said: “The battery grade lithium hydroxide produced has to date been tested by major South Korean cathode makers and has passed their qualification process.”

Once a number of conditions surrounding the deal are complete, they will be put to the Board of Pilbara Minerals for a final decision and commitment to the joint development in mid- to late-May 2019. The parties would then aim to complete construction of the chemical conversion plant in late 2020 with commencement of ramp-up and production from early 2021.

Civmec starts fabrication work for Albemarle’s WA lithium hydroxide plant

ASX-listed Civmec has announced the award of a contract from Albemarle for the delivery of a new lithium hydroxide plant to be built in Western Australia.

Albemarle’s new hydroxide production plant will be in the Kemerton Strategic Industrial Area, around 160 km south of Perth, near the port town of Bunbury. It will initially comprise of three production trains, each producing 20,000 t/y of hydroxide, with a potential further expansion to five trains and ultimate site production of 100,000 t/y by around 2025. Albemarle began earthworks earlier this year.

Civmec’s scope of work includes structural, mechanical and piping for the hydromet and final product, reagents and utilities for Trains 1, 2 and 3.

The company’s Henderson facility will be used to fabricate and pre-assemble selected components for the on-site plant erection, with fabrication commencing immediately. Site works, meanwhile, are expected from mid-2019 to March 2021.

At the peak of construction, there is expected to be some 300 personnel involved in the delivery of the current defined scope, providing significant opportunity for skilled people residing in the region, Civmec said.

Civmec’s CEO, Patrick Tallon, said: “We are delighted to have been selected by Albemarle as a significant construction partner for this exciting project. This two-year project is ideally suited to our operations, fabricating, modularising and site erecting steel work for this key Western Australian development.

“This project reflects the growing confidence in the Western Australia resource industry, highlighting a bright future for the coming years.”

The contract award takes the Civmec’s current order book to approximately A$758.5 million ($543 million), it said.