Tag Archives: Lithium

Compass Minerals looks to leverage new lithium resource at Ogden site

Compass Minerals says it has identified a lithium brine resource of around 2.4 Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) at its active Ogden, Utah, solar evaporation site, and it was in the process of selecting an “extraction technology partner” that could help leverage the resource.

Included within the 2.4 Mt LCE resource was an indicated lithium resource within the ambient brine of the Great Salt Lake of 2.32 Mt of LCE within the ambient brine of the Great Salt Lake, which, Compass says, can be accessed through the company’s existing infrastructure.

For over 50 years, Compass Minerals’ Ogden facility has leveraged the high mineral concentrations within the ambient lake brine from the North Arm of the Great Salt Lake to produce sulphate of potash (SOP), salt and magnesium chloride products. The Ogden facility is the largest operation of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, according to the company.

Compass Minerals say it is now undertaking a strategic evaluation to assess development options available to service growing US domestic lithium market demand while maximising the long-term value of its lithium resource.

Kevin S Crutchfield, President and CEO, said: “We are aggressively evaluating multiple paths forward for this significant lithium brine resource to optimise shareholder value, in parallel with a reassessment of our current capital allocation strategy.

“In a market hungry for domestically-sourced lithium produced with minimal environmental impact, we believe a sustainable and readily available lithium resource like we have defined at our operations on the Great Salt Lake could be a true differentiator for our company. We look forward to communicating the results of our strategic evaluation and the selection of an extraction technology partner as we identify the most advantageous path forward for Compass Minerals.”

The resource assessment estimates total combined indicated and inferred lithium resources of approximately 127,000 t of LCE within the interstitial brine (IB) held in the accumulated salt-mass reservoirs at Compass Minerals’ Ogden solar evaporation site. This is on top of the circa-2.32 Mt LCE resource within the ambient brine of the Great Salt Lake.

After an 18-month assessment of multiple direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology providers, including two separate and ongoing pilot projects to demonstrate successful lithium separation from the company’s existing brine resource, Compass is now in the late stages of selecting a DLE technology partner.

The company is targeting an annual production capacity of around 20,000-25,000 t of LCE of battery-grade lithium, with up to 65% of the future production derived from brine that has already been extracted from the Great Salt Lake and in varying stages of concentration within the company’s existing ponds.

“Lithium concentrations within the ambient brine of the North Arm of the Great Salt Lake range from 55 to 60 parts per million (ppm), while concentrations in the company’s pond-derived magnesium chloride product reach up to 1,000 to 1,600 ppm after three years in the solar evaporation process,” Compass explained. “The lithium concentration in the IB ranges from 205 to 318 ppm. As such, the company anticipates being well-positioned to serve the widely forecasted increase in domestic market demand for lithium.”

In addition, the company is engaged in third-party testing of conversion options to battery-grade lithium hydroxide.

By leveraging existing operational infrastructure, permits and pond processes at its Ogden facility, Compass believes it is uniquely positioned to capture the now-defined lithium resource with nominal incremental impact to the beds and waters of the Great Salt Lake. It has contracted Minviro Ltd to perform a formal life cycle assessment (LCA) of the company’s lithium development scenarios currently under consideration. Based on internationally recognised LCA standards, the Minviro assessment is expected to help quantify any environmental impacts associated with the development of this resource, with Compass expecting to leverage the findings of the LCA to identify ways to further minimise the project’s environmental footprint.

FLSmidth set to showcase lithium engineering expertise at ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge

ioneer Ltd has awarded a major engineering and equipment supply contract to FLSmidth for the development of the Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project in Nevada, USA.

The contract has been awarded on a limited notice to proceed (LNTP) basis, with the supply of the equipment packages being conditional on a final investment decision on the project by ioneer’s Board of Directors.

Under the contract, FLSmidth has commenced work on product engineering for the equipment packages, which include crushing and material handling equipment, plus lithium carbonate and boric acid dryers.

FLSmidth, Ioneer says, has significant experience in providing technology, equipment, engineering and services expertise to the battery minerals sector. It has a strong US presence and is committed to improving project efficiency while reducing environmental impacts on site.

FLSmidth has also introduced ioneer to Denmark’s Export Credit Agency (EKF) regarding potential financing options.

ioneer Managing Director, Bernard Rowe, said: “The contract with FLSmidth is one of the more significant supply packages we will award at Rhyolite Ridge and represents another step in the development of the project.

“FLSmidth is focused on providing environmentally sound engineering and technology solutions. This aligns with ioneer’s ambition to not only produce materials necessary for electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure, but to do so in an efficient and environmentally responsible manner through lowered emissions, significantly reduced water usage and a small surface footprint.”

FLSmidth Mining President, Mikko Keto, said: “This contract provides clear recognition of our experience, know-how, and world-class technologies for processing lithium. It is also important to note that our localised approach and strength in service and aftermarket were important factors for ioneer when it came to choosing a partner.”

The lithium and boron resource at Rhyolite Ridge is estimated at 146.5 Mt, including a reserve of 60 Mt. The company expects to mine and process 63.8 Mt over the 26-year mine life at an average annual rate of 2.5 Mt/y. This will see it produce, on average, 22,340 t of lithium carbonate (99% purity) (years 1 to 3), 21,951 t of lithium hydroxide (99.5% purity) (year four onward) and 174,378 t boric acid (life of quarry).

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.

Sigma hires Promon for Grota do Cirilo lithium project design and construction

Sigma Lithium Resources Corp has appointed Promon Engenharia Ltda of Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the design and construction of Phase 1 of its Grota do Cirilo hard-rock lithium project in the country.

Promon joins Primero Group of Australia as Sigma’s international engineering team for construction of the project.

The announcement came at the same time as Sigma confirmed it had initiated significant earthworks activities at the project, breaking ground with topsoil removal, clearing and grubbing in the site area (plant and mine). These activities followed completion of the geotechnical assessment for the civil engineering and evaluation of impact on the foundation design and earthwork quantities for construction of the foundation for the production plant for Phase 1 of the project. This phase is designed to allow for expansion design features incorporating a future second production line.

Sigma said it continued to advance detailed engineering activities with Promon, which now joins Primero to provide technical and engineering services to Sigma in the construction of the project.

Sigma said Promon was selected for its substantial experience in the advanced metallurgical and chemical industries and for its detailed and focused engineering process. Its portfolio of large-scale projects include: processing and mining plants, oil refineries, petrochemical plants, maritime terminals, hydroelectric, thermal and nuclear power plants, power transmission systems, steel mills, automotive and aeronautical manufacturing plants and commercial buildings.

Primero, meanwhile, is one of the few engineering firms with direct experience in lithium plant construction commissioning and operations as a result of its work in several successful producing projects in Australia, including the previous experience of its personnel at the Talison Greenbushes mine, Sigma said.

“Primero perfected the technology for automating and digitally controlling dense media separation in lithium processing facilities,” it added. “Together with the company, Primero has developed the ‘green’ circuits for the processing flowsheet for the commercial production plant for the project, including the water recycling and dry stacking.”

Initial production of 220,000 t/y of “high purity lithium concentrate” is on track for the September quarter of 2022, it said.

Earlier in the month, the company published results from a preliminary economic assessment for phase two production, which estimated Production could increase from 220,000 t/y (33,000 t of lithium carbonate equivalent) planned for 2022 in Phase 1, to 440,000 t/y (66,000 t of LCE), within approximately one year. This would involve the addition of a second dense media separation line within its plant.

ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project achieves major permitting milestone

ioneer Ltd, a lithium-boron project developer, has confirmed the issuance of a Class II Air Quality Permit for its Rhyolite Ridge project in Nevada, USA.

The issuance of the Air Quality Permit follows a detailed review of the project by the State of Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Bureau of Air Pollution Control and is a requirement for construction to commence at Rhyolite Ridge.

The project will comprise a quarry, an overburden storage facility, the first sulphuric acid plant permitted in the State of Nevada, an ore processing facility responsible for boric acid and lithium carbonate production, and a spent ore storage facility.

The project’s acid plant features MECS®/SNC Lavalin designed heat recovery technology, which means the plant will generate all the electricity and heat needed for normal operations, according to ioneer. This means the operation will be energy-independent and using co-generated zero-carbon power. The acid plant features state-of-the-art controls that limit emissions to among the lowest in the world for this type of plant, the company claims.

“The facility will not use fossil fuels to generate electricity during normal operations and will not draw power from the electricity grid,” the company said.

ioneer’s Managing Director, Bernard Rowe, said: “Our commitment to responsible production is at the core of our operation. The issuance of the Class II Air Quality Permit represents a significant milestone for the Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project and supports our detailed plans for a processing plant with low emissions and minimal hazardous air pollutants.

“After regulatory review and public comment period, we are pleased that Rhyolite Ridge is the first project with sulphuric acid production to receive a Class II Air Quality permit in Nevada.”

He added: “As the most advanced lithium development project in the US, we are committed to ensuring Rhyolite Ridge is a sustainable, environmentally sensitive operation that also delivers significant positive economic impact in the state of Nevada. This important step allows us to continue to develop the project and work toward construction.”

The lithium and boron resource at Rhyolite Ridge is estimated at 146.5 Mt, including a reserve of 60 Mt. The company expects to mine and process 63.8 Mt over the 26-year mine life at an average annual rate of 2.5 Mt/y.

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 looks at IPCC, Metso Outotec alkaline pressure leach for lithium project

Piedmont Lithium’s plan to build out an integrated lithium hydroxide business from a base in North Carolina, USA, has advanced with the release of a scoping study that, it says, confirms that Carolina Lithium will be one of the world’s largest and lowest-cost producers of lithium hydroxide with a “superior” sustainability footprint.

Piedmont Carolina Lithium contemplates a single, integrated site, comprising quarrying, spodumene concentration, by-products processing, and spodumene conversion to lithium hydroxide at its site in Gaston County. There are currently no such integrated sites operating anywhere in the world, with the company saying the economic and environmental advantages of this strategy are compelling.

The latest study outlined a production target of around 4.96 Mt of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate (SC6), averaging approximately 248,000 t/y of SC6 over the 20-year mine life. This equates to an average of 1.95 Mt/y of ore processed, totalling some 37.4 Mt of run-of-mine ore at an average grade of 1.09% Li2O (undiluted) over the 20-year mine life.

Of the total production target of 4.96 Mt of SC6, some 1.19 Mt will be sold to third parties during the operational life and approximately 3.77 Mt will be supplied to Piedmont’s chemical plant operations for conversion into lithium hydroxide. This results in a total production target of about 582,000 t of lithium hydroxide, averaging approximately 29,095 t/y of lithium hydroxide over 20 years, the company said. The study also assumes production targets of 4.83 Mt of quartz concentrate, 7.51 Mt of feldspar concentrate, and 1.34 Mt of mica concentrate over the life of operations.

Piedmont envisages a total initial capital cost of $838.6 million for the project and an after-tax net present value (8% discount) of $1.92 billion.

While still very much preliminary, the flowsheet and mining process for this planned operation is of interest to any lithium developer looking for a ‘sustainable’ mining footprint.

The company currently envisages using a Metso Outotec alkaline pressure leach process as part of its plan. This will reduce emissions, eliminate sulphuric acid roasting and reduce solid waste, it said.

At the same time, in-pit crushing and conveyor systems are on the agenda, eliminating mining trucks in the study to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Piedmont has also been working with a solar developer to build and operate a solar farm on Piedmont property capable of producing electricity to supply up to 100% of Piedmont needs.

The company will also co-locate all operations on the same proposed site in Gaston County to minimise any transit and allow unused by-product streams to be repurposed for site redevelopment, it said. This adds up, Piedmont says, to highly efficient land and water use compared with South American lithium brine production.

Keith D Phillips, President and Chief Executive Officer of Piedmont, said: “We are exceedingly pleased with the results of our updated scoping study. The economics of our project continue to impress, but I am particularly proud of the project’s sustainability profile.

“As we move forward to complete a definitive feasibility study for Carolina Lithium later in 2021, Piedmont has engaged Evercore and JPMorgan as financial advisors to evaluate potential strategic partnering and financing options for its North Carolina project. Given the project’s unique position as the only American spodumene project, with world-class scale, economics, and sustainability, we expect strategic interest to be robust.

Rio Tinto commences lithium production at Boron mine site in California

Rio Tinto says it has commenced production of battery-grade lithium from waste rock at a lithium demonstration plant at the Boron mine site in California, USA.

The demonstration plant is the next step in scaling up a breakthrough lithium production process developed at Boron, to recover the critical mineral and extract additional value out of waste piles from over 90 years of mining at the operation, it said. An initial small-scale trial in 2019 successfully proved the process of roasting and leaching waste rock to recover high grades of lithium.

The demonstration plant has a design capacity of 10 t/y of battery-grade lithium. It will be run throughout 2021 to optimise the process and inform Rio Tinto’s feasibility assessment for progressing to a production-scale plant with an initial capacity of at least 5,000 t/y, or enough to make batteries for around 70,000 electric vehicles.

Rio Tinto Minerals Chief Executive, Sinead Kaufman, said: “This is a valuable next step in scaling up our production of lithium at the Boron site, all from using waste material without the need for further mining. It shows the innovative thinking we are applying across our business to find new ways to meet the demand for emerging commodities like lithium, which are part of the transition to a low-carbon future.”

Rio Tinto’s lithium pipeline includes the Jadar lithium-borate project in Serbia, for which a feasibility study is expected to complete by the end of 2021.

Development of the lithium project at Boron draws on Rio’s long standing partnership with the US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI), which is focused on discovering ways to economically recover critical mineral by-products from existing refining and smelting processes. CMI experts worked alongside Rio technical leads to help solve a number of key processing challenges to produce battery grade lithium at Boron, the company said.

E3 Metals receives provincial funding for Direct Lithium Extraction pilot

Canada-based E3 Metals says it has received a government grant totalling C$1.8 million ($1.4 million) from Alberta Innovates that will assist it in funding a pilot plant to test out its proprietary Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology.

DLE technology, the company says, seamlessly connects conventional oil field and lithium processing, with the potential to unlock Alberta’s previously untapped lithium resources.

This direct brine process produces a concentrate feedstock that could be turned into lithium hydroxide using conventional production equipment, according to the company, with the benefit of DLE being that it can achieve at least 20 times to almost 100 times concentration of lithium (up to 5,300 mg/L) with a reduction of over 99% of all impurities and an extraction time of hours. This is achieved with average lithium recoveries of over 90%, the company says.

“E3 Metals’ goal is to commercialise its global-scale lithium resource and deliver zero carbon emissions, battery grade lithium products to the growing electric vehicle supply chain,” it said.

The funding provided by Alberta Innovates is to support the demonstration E3 Metals’ DLE technology by progressively scaling it up from the lab prototype to a field pilot. The first step will be a prototype operating within E3 Metals’ Calgary lab, and then a field pilot operating continuously on a site within E3 Metals’ resource area in Alberta.

“By demonstrating the process at a pilot scale over numerous months, the company plans to significantly de-risk its Alberta lithium project prior to scaling up to the anticipated commercial scale of 20,000 t/y lithium hydroxide monohydrate,” it said.

Alberta Innovates is a provincially funded corporation with a mandate to deliver 21st century solutions for the most compelling challenges facing Albertans, E3 Metals says. It does this by building on the province’s research and technology development strengths in the core sectors of health, environment, energy, and food and fibre, and platforms such as clean technology, digital technology for business transformation, data-enabled innovation, and innovative production and distribution.

E3 Metals has 7 Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent inferred mineral resources in Alberta within the Leduc Reservoir. Some 1.9 Mt of this is confined within its Clearwater lithium project.

Rio Tinto Kennecott to recover tellurium from copper smelting

Rio Tinto is to construct a new plant that will recover tellurium, a critical mineral used in solar panels, from copper refining at its Kennecott mine near Salt Lake City, Utah.

The company is investing $2.9 million to set up the plant, which will recover tellurium as a by-product of copper smelting, extracting a valuable mineral from waste streams. The plant will have a capacity to produce around 20 t/y of tellurium, the miner said.

Rio expects to begin production of tellurium in the December quarter of 2021, creating a new North American supply chain for the critical mineral.

Tellurium is an essential component of cadmium telluride, a semiconductor used to manufacture thin film photovoltaic solar panels. Thin films made of this compound can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity, according to the miner. Tellurium can also be used as an additive to steel and copper to improve machinability, making these metals easier to cut. It can also be added to lead to increase resistance to sulphuric acid, vibration and fatigue.

Rio Tinto Kennecott Managing Director, Gaby Poirier, said: “The minerals and metals we produce are essential to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. Adding tellurium to our product portfolio provides customers in North America with a secure and reliable source of tellurium produced at the highest environmental and labour standards with renewable energy. Rio Tinto is committed to using innovation to reduce waste in our production process and extract as much value as possible from the material that we mine and process.”

Utah Governor, Spencer Cox, said: “With abundant natural resources, Utah is ideally positioned to help supply the critical minerals essential to maintain American manufacturing competitiveness. Rio Tinto’s smelter at Kennecott is one of only two that is capable of producing copper and other critical minerals. The new tellurium plant is another valuable contribution to critical mineral independence and energy security in the US”

Along with producing almost 20% of US copper, Kennecott’s smelting process also recovers gold, silver, lead carbonate, platinum, palladium and selenium, while molybdenum is recovered from the Copperton concentrator. In total, nine products are currently recovered from the ore extracted at Kennecott.

Rio Tinto is a partner with the US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) and works closely with CMI experts to discover further ways to economically recover critical mineral by-products such as rhenium, tellurium and lithium. The company is also investing in new facilities to extract battery-grade lithium from waste rock at its Boron, California mine site and high quality scandium oxide from waste streams at its metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.