Lithium Australia is set to pilot test a spodumene conversion process that is capable of recovering lithium from fine and contaminated spodumene that fails to meet the feed specifications of today’s converters.
The technology, called LieNA, involves Lithium Australia’s hydrometallurgical process without any need for roasting.
It is capable of handling very fine spodumene particles, resulting in less impurity rejection during the lithium recovery process.
Lithium Australia stated that the size sensitivity of today’s converters could result in a loss of 25-50 per cent of lithium within the ore feed to the concentrator. This leads to high mining costs and cost of the lithium chemicals produced.
“LieNA, then, is designed to improve overall recovery and achieve better utilisation of existing resources: it’s about cost reduction, sustainability and maximising the benefit of our critical (and finite) resources,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said.
Lithium Australia plans to run the initial pilot plant test in September, with construction already underway.
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) will construct and operate the plant, and receive input from Murdoch University, Curtin University and Carnac Project Delivery Services.
Lithium Australia plans to source its sample of spodumene-bearing pegmatite from Essential Metals (previously Pioneer Resources).
The company will send the lithium chemicals produced at the pilot plant to its subsidiary, VSPC, to generate cathode powders and lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) coin-cell lithium-ion batteries.
This will be processed by ALS Metallurgy to produce the concentrate feed for the plant.
The LieNA project is supported by an Australian Government grant and has received an Australian patent.
Lithium Australia also applied international patents for the technology.