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Neometals, MinRes close in on electrolysis mission end

Updated: May 28

Neometals is testing its proprietary “Eli” process in Canada to produce lithium hydroxide for the EV battery market. Credit: File

A joint bid by Neometals (ASX: NMT) and mining giant Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN), using electricity to turn purified lithium chloride from South American brines into a primary lithium hydroxide product, has entered its final stage at a testing facility in Canada.

The pilot testwork progam being undertaken with Neometals’ proprietory “ELi” process is aimed at producing a converted material for use in the manufacture of electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The program, being conducted under the joint venture (JV) vehicle Reed Advanced Materials (RAM), is also designed to provide data that will support licencing activities for the high-tech enterprise.

That is expected to include details of product quality and the power usage and membrane life that comprise two of the major costs using the process. The testwork is expected to be completed in July.

Neometals owns 70 per cent of RAM, with MinRes holding the remaining 30 per cent. RAM will test the ELi process at the NESi testing facility owned by Canadian electrolyser vendor NORAM, during a 1000-hour trial.

The electrolysis pilot program will electrolyse lithium chloride brine from RAM’s successful purification campaign it undertook last year. It is also expected to confirm results of battery quality that were achieved previously.

Samples will also be provided to cathode producers to enable a complete economic and technical assessment by the provider of the brine material used in testing.

The innovative ELi process converts lithium chloride solutions into lithium hydroxide monohydrate with the use of electrolysis, replacing huge volumes of reagents normally used with an industry-standard flowsheet. Neometals believes the process has the potential to deliver a meaningful change in the operating costs of the chemical converting businesses.

The company is planning additional testing in a full industrial-height electrolysis cell that will deliver further information to predict likely performance on a commercial scale. It says an intermediate electrolysis product solution will be evaporated and crystallised into finished primary products by an equipment vendor, with by-products of hydrogen and chlorine gas.

RAM is also evaluating other brines as part of its chemical technology licensing model and is involved in a hydrometallurgical process to produce high-purity vanadium oxide from “slag” – a steelmaking by-product.

Neometals’ core focus is the commercialisation of its patented lithium-ion battery recycling technology, where it holds a 50 per cent share under a supply and technology licensing business model in the Primobius JV it shares with German plant builder SMS group.

With its fingers in many pies, Neometals appears to have a transparent intent on playing a part in the “high-tech” future of battery minerals processing.

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