Nemaska Lithium Inc. has secured a $12.87-million technology commercialization grant for its Phase 1 lithium hydroxide hydromet plant from the federally-funded Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). The Phase 1 plant, designed to produce 500 tonnes per year of high purity lithium hydroxide, is designed be a module of a larger commercial hydromet plant.
Nemaska intends to use this facility to demonstrate its proprietary lithium hydroxide technology and produce commercial samples to send to end users primarily in the lithium battery market with a goal of securing off-take agreements in advance of starting operation of its lithium mine and commercial hydromet facility.
Today’s batteries are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and battery manufacturers typically take up to 12 months to qualify a new supplier of lithium hydroxide. By building the Phase 1 Plant in advance of the commercial hydromet plant and lithium mine we expect to be qualified suppliers before we are in full production.—Guy Bourassa, President and CEO of Nemaska Lithium
Nemaska intends to become a lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate producer based in Québec and has filed patent applications for its proprietary methods to produce these compounds. In tandem, Nemaska is developing what it says is one of the richest spodumene lithium hard rock deposit in the world, both in volume and grade. Spodumene concentrate produced at Nemaska’s Whabouchi mine in Québec and from other global sources will be shipped to the lithium compounds processing plant to be built in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Québec. (The Whabouchi project encompasses a combined open pit mine and underground mine and concentrator.)
The plant will transform spodumene concentrate into high purity lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate mainly for the growing lithium battery market. Nemaska has developed proprietary processes that use electrolysis to produce high-purity lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate. The technology virtually eliminates costly soda ash from the process.
The company will take a 6% spodumene concentrate (produced from a hard rock lithium mine) and process it into a lithium sulfate. From there the lithium sulfate is transformed through electrolysis into a high-purity liquid lithium hydroxide.
The lithium hydroxide is then transformed into a lithium monohydrate (solid) or bubbled with carbon dioxide and changed into lithium carbonate. Since no impurities such as soda ash are used in Nemaska’s process, the company can produced very high purity lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate at a very competitive price.
Nemaska has signed an off-take agreement with Phostech, which uses lithium hydroxide to produce lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cathodes. New battery technologies are moving towards lithium hydroxide as the chemical of choice due to better power density, longer life cycle and enhanced safety features, Nemaska says.
Whabouchi contains North America’s richest hard rock lithium deposit, according to Nemaska, with an average grade 1.53% Li2O. With 27.3 MT Proven and Probable Reserves, it is the second richest and largest deposit known globally.
Nemaska also announced that the Québec Review Committee (COMEX) will hold its public hearings on the Whabouchi Mine Project on 30 March 2015 in the Cree Community of Nemaska and on 1 April 2015 in Chibougamau, Québec. At the hearings, residents will have an opportunity to voice their views on the project’s impact to the local environment.
The COMEX consultation is the final step before making the recommendation to the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and The Fight Against Climate Change to issue the general certificate of authorization required to build and operate the Whabouchi Mine.