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Lithium Energy, Lanshen tests nail high lithium recovery

Updated: Apr 30


Testwork by Lithium Energy and Xi’an Lanshen New Material Technology has recovered 92 per cent of lithium from Solaroz brine. Credit: File

Collaborative testwork by Lithium Energy and Xi’an Lanshen New Material Technology has nailed an impressive 92 per cent lithium recovery using brines from the Solaroz project in the Argentine province of Jujuy.


The direct lithium extraction (DLE) program uses Lanshen’s proprietary technology, which has already been proven on an industrial and commercial scale. It uses adsorbent resin and is an initial step towards the construction of a proposed demonstration plant to produce up to 3000 tonnes per annum of battery-grade lithium carbonate.


Lanshen is a leading provider of DLE technology and plant manufacturing. It has several DLE plants currently in operation and notable companies including China Minmetals and Softbank Capital as major shareholders. The testwork program was conducted on a 10,000-litre representative sample of brine sourced from Lithium Energy’s Mario Angel concession, collected from between 127m and 305m, with an assayed head grade of 463 milligrams per litre of lithium. The brine sample was transported by road to Lanshen’s laboratory facility in Santiago, Chile.


The lab testwork program is now focussing on final impurity removal and uses iron-exchange resins to remove low quantities of impurity ions in the product. That will result in concentrated high-purity lithium chloride and lithium carbonate samples being produced.


Lithium chloride can be converted into lithium carbonate, a highly sought-after product for the battery electric vehicle (EV) market.


Lanshen plans to conduct a pilot-plant test program following its completion of the testing on impurity removal, a move aimed at providing detailed engineering design criteria for the proposed battery-grade lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) demonstration plant to process the Solaroz lithium brines.


These results from the Lanshen testwork have exceeded our expectations and prove that the high quality of the Solaroz brine performs well both with traditional pond evaporation and with Lanshen propriety DLE adsorbent resin technology.
Lithium Energy chairman William Johnson

The company says a Lanshen containerised pilot plant was recently delivered to Argentina and it plans to install it in Jujuy. Once it is in position, it will operate with brines from the Solaroz project for a 12-week period to finalise the design framework for the proposed plant.


Management says it will buy the completed plant, if it passes pre-agreed acceptance criteria, with a cash payment or a negotiated percentage interest in the lithium rights associated with the Mario Angel concession.


Lanshen has also stated interest in the investment and operation of a bigger plant of 20,000 tonnes per annum or more.


The elevated levels of lithium recovered from the lab program significantly exceeds the 50 per cent to 60 per cent typically experienced with conventional pond evaporation. The DLE alternative highlights its potential use as a complimentary development pathway for Solaroz, especially considering the pilot plant is fully-funded by Lanshen.


Lithium Energy’s recent scoping study confirmed conventional pond evaporation remains its preferred base development case for Solaroz, with pond evaporation laboratory testwork recently undertaken by Norlab in Argentina successfully producing 99.5 per cent battery-grade lithium carbonate from its brines. The company says the scoping study is supported by the recently-upgraded Solaroz mineral resource estimate of 3.3 million tonnes of LCE.


Within the total resource, there is a high-grade core of 1.3 million tonnes of LCE with an average concentration of 400 milligrams per litre of lithium. The high-grade core underpins the study outcomes, with both 20,000tpa and 40,000tpa LCE production, using conventional evaporation ponds processing.


Solaroz is on the Olaroz Salar adjacent to Arcadium Lithium’s Olaroz lithium facility that produced 13,000tpa LCE in the 2022 financial year, with a targeted ramp-up in production to 42,500tpa. Neighbouring the project is Lithium Argentina’s recently-commissioned Cauchari-Olaroz facility that is targeting an annual production capacity of 40,000tpa LCE.


With DLE technology producing high lithium recovery rates and conventional pond evaporation appearing to be a viable proposition, Lithium Energy has an opportunity to target a multi-pronged approach for extracting maximum value from its Solaroz project.


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