Neometals Ltd (ASX:NMT) is making progress with its downstream integrated lithium supply chain strategy aimed at serving automotive and grid storage applications.
The company has started wet commissioning of a pilot plant in Canada for its Lithium Battery Recycling Project.
Vendor test work is progressing in the U.S. for Neometals’ Lithium Hydroxide Project.
The third string in the strategy is a Lithium Titanate Research Project and product from optimisation test work has been sent for testing in the U.S.
Strong demand growth for lithium
Lithium prices are at historically high levels due to sustained strong demand growth driven by electric vehicles and energy storage markets.
Market demand is forecast to grow significantly through to 2025 and is likely to continue to challenge supply.
This growth has stimulated construction of new processing capacity, particularly in hard rock conversion in China.
Neometals has developed a strategy in a bid to take advantage of market forecasts.
The company is co-developing technology to economically recover high-value cobalt and other compounds that can be recycled within the battery manufacturing chain.
Most of the fabrication and construction of a 100 kilogram per day mini-max pilot plant in Montreal, Canada, has been completed.
Commissioning of the first sections of the plant is underway and campaigns to process the major commercial battery chemistries will begin in the first quarter of 2018.
The pilot plant will also test batteries supplied by consumer electronics manufacturers and car makers.
Assessing lithium processing facility
The Lithium Hydroxide Project aims to utilise product from Mt Marion Lithium Project in Western Australia, in which Neometals has a 13.8% interest.
The company is progressing the assessment and development of a lithium processing facility near Kalgoorlie, close to the Mt Marion operation.
Kwinana, near Perth, is also being investigated as a potential site.
Vendor equipment and metallurgical test work is progressing in North America and results have been positive.
Work is developing on the flow sheet design, process design criteria and mass balance basis for a proposed front end engineering design (FEED) study.
A report from this test work is scheduled for delivery in mid‐February 2018.
If it proceeds, the FEED study report is expected in late 2018 and will facilitate an investment decision for the project.
Neometals has applied for a provisional patent for the Lithium Titanate Research Project to protect the intellectual property.
It has also conducted optimisation testing through CSIRO.
Product from this work has been sent for testing in the U.S. and results are expected in January 2018.
Anode material can replace graphite
Lithium titanate is an anode material that can replace graphite.
The primary advantage over graphite is the surface area of the anode is around 100 square metres per gram in contrast to typically three square metres for graphite.
Chris Reed, managing director, said: “2017 has been a successful year for the company and has seen us advance our strategy to maximise the value of our future lithium offtake through downstream processing and battery recycling.
“We are engaged in discussions with parties across the entire lithium battery supply chain to commercialise our downstream projects and are confident of delivering on our strategy with strong industry players.”