Lithium Australia (ASX:LIT) has achieved a lithium recovery of +90% using its SiLeach process at the ANSTO Minerals pilot plant in New South Wales.
Final reporting and data analysis by ANSTO supports overall recovery to a product containing 90% to 95% tri-lithium phosphate (Li3PO4).
Unlike thermal conversion processes, SiLeach is not limited by ore feed size or the inclusion of impurities.
For LIT, such an outstanding overall recovery result underscores the potential of the process to significantly improve resource utilisation via the treatment of finer ore feeds.
The promising results were in line with expectations and, in fact, there remains significant room for improvement, with the inclusion of several up-stream changes to impurity removal and modification of final lithium phosphate precipitation unit processes.
Further optimisation of impurity removal and/or refining options for tri-lithium phosphate are in development and will be included in the extended duration third-generation pilot-plant campaigns for SiLeach planned for 2019.
A sample of the tri-lithium phosphate produced during the gen-2 pilot-plant campaign is now being tested at LIT’s 100%-owned subsidiary VSPC Ltd.
Currently, VSPC is commercialising efficient, cost-effective process technology for the manufacture of high-performance battery cathode materials.
The VSPC program includes the production and testing of lithium-ion batteries made from this material.
If VSPC's tests on the SiLeach-produced tri-lithium phosphate prove positive, LIT can bypass the lithium hydroxide/carbonate route for producing battery precursors that is dictated by conventional lithium processing methods.
LIT Managing Director Adrian Griffin said: “We are extremely pleased with the SiLeach outcomes and process development work being conducted at ANTSO.
“Such positive results bolster our intent to move forward with a large-scale pilot plant for SiLeach and recover and convert contaminated mine wastes into lithium chemicals.
“It's all part of our plan to develop a vertically integrated lithium production business, by providing sustainable technologies to the battery industry.
“These results clearly demonstrate the potential to achieve greater utilization of existing resources and reduce the environmental pressure created by the increased demand for energy metals."