Lepidico has commenced development work for the L-Max pilot plant in Perth in Western Australia, with metallurgical consultancy Strategic Metallurgy at its helm.
Commercial premises for the plant have been secured, and a construction manager has commenced work.
The L-Max technology extracts battery-grade lithium chemicals and other valuable byproducts such as sodium silicate and sulphate of potash from unconventional sources, including previously ignored mica.
The 15kg-per-hour research and development (R&D) facility is expected to commence commissioning in April 2019, with first production scheduled for the following month. The plant commissioning will coincide with the completion of the Phase One plant feasibility study, allowing Lepidico to secure offtake partners and conduct comprehensive due diligence.
The Phase One L-Max plant is designed to produce 2,000 to 4,000 tonnes per year (t/y) of battery grade lithium carbonate, representative of a smaller equipment used in the Phase Two plant.
The L-Max plant requires an estimated capital cost of $3 million, with $1.5 million of additional operational cost.
The pilot plant will receive concentrate feed that is sourced from Lepidico’s Alvarrões Lepidolite mine in Portugal and one other deposit, which has been assessed for its leach amenability. This deposit has shown favourable results and is undergoing further test work.
The plant will also provide material for further product development by the L-Max technology, particularly for amorphous silica, SOP fertiliser, caesium brine and the evaluation of plant residue as an environmental remediation product.
Nine equipment packages that make up the pilot plant’s major mechanical equipment will also arrive by the end of October, selected for their suitability to the Phase One plant.