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Lithium Energy locks in testwork partner at Solaroz

Updated: Apr 30

Evaporation ponds installed at Lithium Energy’s Solaroz lithium brine project in Argentina. Credit: File

Lithium Energy has kicked off metallurgical testing at its flagship Solaroz project in Argentina after securing the services of one of South America’s leading experts in lithium brine evaporation and testwork.

The company has contracted the experienced Norlab SRL in Argentina to conduct evaporation testwork on representative samples of lithium-rich brines from Solaroz within the area’s renowned “Lithium Triangle”.

Management says the Alex Stewart Laboratory, based in the Argentinian province of San Salvador Jujuy, will assist Norlab with its chemical assay and analysis. The aim of the testwork program is to determine the optimal process conditions needed to extract lithium from the brine at the operation and produce battery-grade lithium carbonate.

Lithium Energy says evaporation test ponds have been installed at its Solaroz site, with evaporation monitoring and brine testing already in progress. The analysis results will contribute to the process design data that will be established during the laboratory pilot testwork to be conducted by Norlab.

The results will provide a comprehensive and representative dataset to underpin the process design work that will occur during the next phase of the company’s feasibility studies.

The Solaroz brine project takes in about 12,000 hectares of the Lithium Triangle. The zone is projected to host about a third of the world’s lithium resources in underground bodies of fluid known as brines and is nestled between Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

Lithium Energy released its maiden mineral resource earlier this year, with 3.3 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). A high-grade core of 1.34 million tonnes of LCE with an average concentration of 405 milligrams per litre lithium is within the resource.

In addition to the testwork being conducted by Norlab, the company is working towards completing a scoping study to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate and investigating the merits of the direct lithium extraction (DLE) method. It recently announced it had entered a “try before you buy” agreement with leading DLE provider, China-based Xi’an Lanshen New Material Technology, to fully fund, construct and operate a trial plant at Solaraz.

The DLE process involves pumping lithium brine to the surface directly into a processing plant. One of several absorption methods is applied to extract the lithium from the brine, which takes less than a day compared to the year-long process of pond evaporation.

Management says preliminary bench-scale lithium resin extraction has provided it with the confidence in the Lanshen DLE technology to proceed to laboratory pilot-scale testwork. It will be undertaken by Lanshen in its laboratory in Santiago, Chile, using about a 2000-litre representative sample of brine from Solaroz

Just last month, Lithium Energy unveiled the best hit yet from its drilling at Solaroz, with a diamond drillhole showing 24m at a grade of 483mg/l lithium from 233m. The hole is considered a step-out and was not included when it delivered its maiden resource estimate.

The company shares the lithium rights in the Olaroz Salar basin with lithium carbonate producers Allkem and Lithium Argentina – indeed, a notable neighbourhood.

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