Mineral Resources (MinRes) recently entered into a joint development agreement with Lithium Australia to develop further Lithium Australia’s LieNA technology for the extraction of lithium from fine and low-grade spodumene, improving mining efficiency, sustainability and potential profitability.
The LieNA process is essentially a caustic digest of spodumene. In effect it generates a phase change analogous to conventional conversion processes, except that it occurs in solution rather than a furnace.
During the LieNAprocess, fine spodumene is fed into an autoclave, where it reacts with caustic soda to form a synthetic lithium sodalite. Most of the lithium partitions into the newly formed sodalite, which is recovered via a simple, solid/liquid separation step. The lithium within the sodalite is weakly bound, so an exchange reaction that substitutes H+ for Li+ allows it to be recovered from the solid by leaching in weak acid.
Lithium Australia’s LieNA technology has the potential to enhance lithium extraction yields by up to 50% over current market performance, the company said.
MinRes will invest up to $4.5 million to fund the development and operation of a pilot plant and an engineering study for a demonstration plant, as well as supply the raw materials.
Subject to the results of the pilot plant, MinRes and Lithium Australia will form a 50:50 joint venture to own and commercialize the LieNA technology through a licensing model.
Under the license agreement with the joint venture, MinRes can elect to sole fund, develop and operate a demonstration scale plant that will aim to extract lithium salt at a commercial scale.
Lithium Australia’s LieNA technology has the potential to significantly boost lithium extraction efficiency from hard rock mines. Our preliminary testing with Lithium Australia has yielded promising results and warranted this investment to further develop the technology.
The goal is to fast track the commercialization of LieNA to drive efficiencies and initially extract more value from our two world-class lithium operations in Western Australia.—MinRes Chief Executive, Lithium Joshua Thurlow