Lake Resources NL (ASX:LKE) is moving to the pre-production phase of high-purity lithium products from its Argentine projects during 2020 using efficient, disruptive and low-cost direct extraction technology at a pilot plant
This pilot plant, designed by California-based Lilac Solutions and international engineering company Hatch, will demonstrate a ground-breaking direct extraction ion-exchange process on brines produced at Lake’s Kachi Lithium Brine Project to produce lithium carbonate (LCE).
The first module of the plant has been completed and tested, and once all modules are tested, the pilot plant will be transported for operation on-site at the Kachi project.
A pre-feasibility study (PFS) at Kachi is nearing completion with data from the pilot plant together with the PFS to be incorporated into detailed studies, leading to the approval process for a large 25,000 tonnes per annum LCE production plant.
The plant is anticipated to start operating in 2022/23, with a phased start at 10,000 tonnes per annum and production costs expected in the lower part of the cost curve for the industry.
Low impurity products
In January 2020, battery-grade lithium carbonate with low impurities was produced from the pilot plant with lithium-bearing brines sourced from the Kachi project.
The ‘very low’ impurity products exceed the current high 99.5% standards demanded by battery and cathode makers.
Larger volume samples are expected to be delivered in March–April 2020 to several downstream participants for customer qualification purposes for off-takers and potential project partners in South Korea, Japan and China.
Cauchari and Olaroz projects
Lake’s Cauchari project in Jujuy Province was drilled for the first time in 2019 and confirmed similar grades and lithium brines extending into Lake’s properties from the adjoining Ganfeng-Lithium Americas Cauchari project, which is rapidly progressing to production in late 2020 at 40,000 tonnes per annum LCE.
Once the pilot plant has completed activities at Kachi it could be then used for the Cauchari project, or at Lake’s mining titles at the Olaroz project, adjoining Orocobre Limited’s (ASX:ORE) production site.
Lake holds mining leases over about 45,000 hectares in two areas in Jujuy Province in NW Argentina, both 100% owned by the company.
Multiple high-grade lithium brines over a 506-metre interval from 102 metres was demonstrated in results returned in late August 2019.
At Olaroz, north of Cauchari, Lake’s leases extend over 30 kilometres east and north of the adjoining Orocobre’s Olaroz lithium production leases. Drilling is anticipated when all planned holes are approved.