Lithium explorer and developer, Keliber Oy, says a continuous lithium hydroxide pilot project conducted using its own ore has demonstrated the functionality of its planned production process.
High purity lithium hydroxide was produced in the pilot, which was the last part of a three-phase continuous piloting program, it said.
Keliber previously completed a definitive feasibility study (DFS) for a project to produce 11,000 t/y of battery-grade lithium carbonate from spodumene-rich pegmatite deposits in Central Ostrobothnia, Finland.
One of the more interesting features of the project is the processing route. Instead of conventional sulphide roasting route to produce a carbonate, Keliber plans to use Outotec’s soda leaching process. This comes after conventional spodumene concentration and conversion of alpha to beta spodumene in a rotary kiln.
The LiOH pilot was operated at the Outotec R&D centre in January 2020. “The goals of the continuous LiOH pilot were to produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, to optimise the process flowsheet, including process parameters of the production process, and to demonstrate the functionality of the chosen production technology,” Keliber said.
The goals of the 14-day continuous pilot test were met, according to the company. “The purity of the product received with a single crystallisation stage was extremely high. The lithium recovery in the process was high and better than the one used in the DFS released in February 2019.”
In the first and second phase of the pilot program in late 2019, the conversion and calcination processes were tested successfully with good results, the company added.
Pertti Lamberg, CEO of Keliber, said: “A successful test program using our own ore and including all the process stages demonstrates the functionality and strength of the chosen technology. This is an important milestone and we can safely continue the detailed design of the process based on these results.”
Sami Heikkinen, Chemical Plant Manager, said: “We have proven with Outotec our ability to produce high-purity, battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, our desired end-product, with good extraction. It is really important for Keliber that we can verify the functionality of our cleantech process.”