CATL subsidiary acquires exploration rights to lithium clay deposit in Yichun; location of new $2.1B, 50 GWh plant
Yichun Contemporary Amperex Resources Limited, a subsidiary of China-based battery giant CATL, won the bid for the exploration rights to a lithium clay project in Yichun, east China’s Jiangxi province at a cost of 865 million yuan (about $135 million).
In October 2021, CATL broke ground on a new lithium-ion battery plant in Yichun. The first phase of the project involves an investment of 13.5 billion yuan (around US$2.1 billion ) to build 50 GWh of capacity.
Located in Huaqiao Town of Yifeng County and Shangfu Town of Fengxin County and covering an area of 6.44 square kilometers, the deposit is estimated to contain about 2.66 million tons of associated lithium metal oxide in the 960.25 million tons of porcelain clay minerals.
Lithium clays, while a large potential source of lithium, are low-grade and cannot be processed by standard hard-rock processes; the go-to approach has been to use acid leaching. Unfortunately for the efficiency and economics of the process, the leach method also pulls out high concentrations of impurities. With the increasing demand for lithium, recent research into extracting lithium from clays is exploring new approaches.
In 2021, Tesla, a major CATL customer, filed a patent on a new method of extracting lithium from clay materials that is purportedly more environmentally friendly and efficient than acid leaching.
Connelly, Damian (2019). “Technical options for processing a lithium clay ore and achieving high purity lithium carbonate.” Proceedings of ALTA 2019 Lithium Processing Sessions including Novel Lithium Processes Forum, (p. 231). Australia