The study results show potential for low-cost lithium production and confirmed high lithium recoveries of 85-90% from multiple brine samples, with lithium concentrations greater than 25,000 milligram-per-litre produced from about 300 milligram-per-litre of lithium brine.
The study was undertaken by California-based Lilac Solutions Inc which is in the process of providing a detailed proposal for an on-site pilot pant in 2019 as part of Kachi’s pre-feasibility study (PFS).
Lake intends the plant to be a precursor to a full-scale commercial project offering rapid, low-cost production with low environmental impact.
Lake managing director Steve Promnitz said the results supported the company’s plans for the rapid development of a new mine, as well as tapping into growing global demand for lithium on the back of the world’s clean energy revolution in car and battery technology.
Promnitz said: “Lilac’s proprietary extraction process could put Lake ahead of rival projects in terms of cost and recovery rate, giving Kachi a significant boost in terms of profitability, as well as minimising its environmental impact.
“Increased grade through the enhancement process indicates that a 300 milligram-per-litre lithium brine could produce lithium carbonate or lithium chloride products.”
Metallurgical recovery results from Lilac’s study compare favourably with conventional brine operations in South America which have typical lithium recoveries below 50%.
These operations also come with a lengthy 9-24 month waiting period for evaporation to produce a suitable lithium brine concentrate for processing.
Due to the levels of lithium concentrated produced, together with evaporative dewatering, Lake can potentially use the Lilac process with conventional reverse osmosis and further evaporative dewatering to commercially produce similar concentrations of lithium.
Battery-grade lithium carbonate products can then be produced in downstream processing using conventional purification technologies.
The study showed the process offers potential for globally-competitive production costs, estimated to be US$2,600 per tonne.
Lithium carbonate exported from Chile and Argentina currently sells for US$13,500-$14,372 per tonne, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.
Promnitz added: “Combining Lake’s scale and project experience with Lilac’s technology and process expertise is expected to enable a rapid path to low-cost commercial production of lithium carbonate from the Kachi resource.
“Together with our other lithium projects in Argentina, Lake is in position for major advances in 2019, generating potential new jobs for the local community and wealth for shareholders.”
Lake is developing three lithium brine projects and one hard rock lithium project in Argentina, all of which are 100% owned.
The leases are within Argentina’s ‘lithium triangle’, where half of the world’s lithium is produced.
Lake’s large tenement package of about 200,000 hectares gives it the potential to provide a consistent and secure supply of lithium products demanded by battery makers and electric vehicle manufacturers.