Neo Lithium Corp. [NLC-TSXV, NTTHF-OTC] says it is able to produce battery grade lithium at a pilot plant using concentrated brine from its wholly-owned Tres Quebradas lithium project (3Q) in Catamarca Province, Argentina.
The 3Q Project in Catamarca Argentina (the largest lithium producer in Argentina), covers 162 square kilometres and is ranked as one of the highest-grade deposits in the world, and is expected to emerge as a low cost producer.
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 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.
Neo Lithium recently completed a preliminary economic assessment of the 3Q Project that the company says indicates robust economics for a 35,000 tonne-per-year lithium carbonate mine.
In a March 11, 2020 press release, Neo said the brine was extracted from the high-grade zone located in the northern zone of the 3Q project and then evaporated in the company’ industrial scale ponds at the same location under similar conditions as production scale.
The company said no chemical reagents were added to the brine other than minor amounts of hydrochloric acid for PH control at the final stage of evaporation. The concentrated brine was then transported by truck to a pilot plant at Fiabala, which is located 160 kilometres from the 3Q Project.
Two different processes were tested to produce battery grade lithium carbonate at the pilot plant.
The first was described in a technical report filed on May 8, 2019, using solvent extraction phase (SX-B) for Boron removal, a sulfation phase for calcium removal using Sodium Sulfate and a liming and carbonation phase to remove magnesium and any remaining calcium. The lithium carbonate process is then completed with three stages of soda ash carbonation, washing and drying.
The result of the process described above produced lithium carbonate with a purity of 99.535%.
The company also tested a second process to produce battery grade lithium carbonate by changing the sulfation phase for calcium removal by an acidification phase with Sodium Hydroxide. The remainder of the lithium carbonate process is then completed in a similar way to the first process.
The results of the second phase produced lithium carbonate with a purity of 99.599%, which is higher than the first process.
Neo said the final economic results of the announced optimization obtained during the second process to produce battery grade lithium carbonate can only be confirmed once the company finalizes its definitive feasibility study. “Management believes that the improved second process can have significant advantages when compared to the first process,” Neo said.
On Friday, Neo Lithium shares advanced 1.8% or $0.01 to 55 cents. The shares are currently trading in a 52-week range of 39 cents and $1.13.