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Lithium Energy pumps out maiden Solaroz resource

Updated: Apr 30

Lithium Energy has three rigs continuing to drill at its Solaroz project in Argentina to target extensions to its maiden inferred mineral resource. Credit: File

Lithium Energy is gearing up to join the ranks of a clutch of A-list producers in South America’s “Lithium Triangle” after releasing a maiden inferred mineral resource estimate of 3.3 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), averaging 310 milligrams per litre lithium, at its flagship Solaroz brine project in Argentina.

The company says a high-grade core of 1.34 million tonnes LCE with an average concentration of 405m/l lithium is housed within the resource. It believes the numbers provide further confidence that it can build a “world-class” lithium project.

The estimate comes off the back of five holes plunged into the company’s “Central Block”, covering about 4750 hectares of the 12,000ha area of its Solaroz concessions. Lithium Energy says extensive geophysics were also used to interpolate the extent of the brines contained in the underlying sedimentary basin.

The company now has three rigs working overtime in a bid to upgrade its preliminary estimate at the site that is nestled next door to lithium heavyweight Allkem’s Olaroz lithium brine production facilities. Drilling is targeting the lateral extents of the prospective sedimentary sequence below the salt lake in the remainder of Central Block and also stretches into the 2700ha Northern Block.

Lithium Energy is also confident its lithium-rich brines flow further afield. Clear indicators from detailed geophysical surveys back an exploration target that runs between 1.5 million tonnes to 8.7 million tonnes of contained LCE, with average grades of a credible 500 to 700mg/l lithium.

Further infill drilling is also planned to upgrade the inferred resource category, in addition to installing test production wells to support ongoing engineering and feasibility studies to fast-track the commercialisation of Solaroz.

This Maiden Resource estimate of 3.3 million tonnes of LCE confirms the potential for Solaroz to be a world-class lithium project, with reported lithium grades, brine volumes, Mg/Li ratios, and specific yields all being positive indicators for the potential economic future brine extraction at Solaroz. Lithium Energy executive chairman William Johnson

Located on the Olaroz salar (salt lake) in north-west Argentina, the region has gained a reputation for developing large-scale lithium-brine operations.

ASX-listed Allkem was an early mover in the region and has been producing lithium-carbonate from Olaroz since 2015, using traditional brine-evaporation methods for the mere sum of US$4924 (AU$7461) per tonne LCE to report an eye-catching gross cash margin of US$47,814 (AU$72,452) per tonne LCE for the March quarter.

Lithium Energy is in the final throes of a scoping study to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate via the same traditional pond evaporation technique, in addition to investigating the merits of the direct lithium extraction (DLE) method.

The DLE process involves pumping lithium brine to the surface directly into a processing plant, where one of several absorption methods is applied to extract the lithium from the brine – taking less than a day, which is in stark contrast to the year-long process of pond evaporation. The spent brine is then reinjected back into the basin below.

To assess both the capabilities and commercial benefits of the new technology, Lithium Energy 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.

Lanshen and Lithium Energy have dived headfirst into the task in a bid to complete the demonstration plant, which is predicted to produce up to 3000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate annually, by November next year.

Management is rapidly ticking off boxes on its long to-do list as it moves towards early pilot production. Backed by a sizeable inferred mineral resource on prime lithium real estate in a mining-friendly jurisdiction, Lithium Energy looks to be entering the home straight in its quest to become the latest lithium producer on the ASX.

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