A.I.S. gains option on breakthrough lithium process

Preparing manganese ore in Peru for shipping overseas. Source A.I.S. Resources Ltd.

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A.I.S. Resources Ltd. [AIS-TSXV; AISSF-OTCQB], a company that aims to become a supplier of specialty metals to the global battery sector, said it has signed an option deal that gives in the right to invest in a new lithium solvent extraction process.

Lithium is a soft white metal that is used in the production of heat-resistant glass and ceramics, lithium grease lubricants, iron, steel and aluminum as well as lithium-ion batteries, which are used in small electronic devices, including smart phones and laptops, and electric vehicles.

Brines (in salt ponds) and spodumene (hard rock) represent the two main sources of commercial lithium production. The largest known deposits are found in South America.

A.I.S. said it has signed a 120-day option agreement with Ekos Research that enables it to invest US$1 million for 15% equity in the break-through technology that can result in a significantly lower processing plant cost. The funds invested will go towards building a pilot plant in Melbourne that will subsequently be shipped to Salta, Argentina where brines will be processed to demonstrate commercial viability.

A.I.S said the extraction process it plans to invest in can produce 99.2% purity lithium and is the culmination of three years of research and development by Ekos Research, University of Melbourne and University of Tsinghua, China.

“The process is much more economic than fractional crystallization as no ponds are required, reducing the investment by more than 60%,” A.I.S. said in a press release on October 8, 2019. “It is very efficient at handling high magnesium brines that pose a serious recovery problem using other technologies such as membranes, reverse osmosis, ion exchange and fractional crystallization,” the company said.

A.I.S. shares were unchanged at 9.5 cents on October 8, 2019, and trade in a 52-week range of 4 cents and 13.5 cents.

Through its extensive geological and business network, A.I.S said it has identified and is developing both manganese ore and lithium projects, primarily in Northern Peru and the Argentina Lithium Triangle.

It said the manganese ore projects have strong potential for short-term cash flow generation while the Argentina lithium projects will provide long term growth.

A.I.S. shares spiked up to 8.5 cents from 2.5 cents in July, 2019 after the company released an update on its plans to ship manganese from deposits in Peru to buyers in China.

The company previously said a contract had been signed with a miner and a deposit paid to buy 2,000 tonnes of manganese ore with samples from the mined ore averaging 45% MnO (manganese oxide). At that time, the company said it was finalizing buyer contracts in China.

More recently, the company said it has a contract from a buyer to purchase 26,000 tonnes of manganese per year.

Manganese is a key ingredient used in the production of steel, aluminum and battery elements. Currently, steel production accounts for 85% to 90% of manganese consumption. The second largest use of manganese is creating an alloy with aluminum to produce a metal that is more resistant to corrosion.

Most aluminum beverage cans contain about 0.8% to 1.5% manganese.

A.I.S. said its near-term objective is to sell up to 40,000 tonnes of manganese per month.

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