Lithium Australia NL (ASX:LIT) (FRA:3MW) has been granted a patent for its revolutionary LieNA® lithium processing technology, which improves the recovery of lithium from fine and contaminated spodumene.
The LieNA® process developed by Lithium Australia can improve recoveries, reduce the footprint of mining operations, lessen environmental impacts and enhance sustainability.
LieNA® is the subject of a co-funded government research project aimed at providing lithium producers with improved environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.
Patent applies for 20 years
The Commissioner of Patents has granted the patent effective from August 2, 2016, and as it is a standard patent, the company now has long-term protection and control over the invention for up to 20 years.
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said: "Lithium Australia continues its emphasis on developing novel solutions to lithium processing problems.
"Commercialisation of the LieNA® process is an opportunity to improve the sustainability of the lithium-ion battery industry.”
Application in Australia
"We see an immediate application for it in Australia, which produces well over half the world’s lithium requirements and nearly all of the spodumene needed; however, significant quantities of the latter never make it into the process supply chain,” he said.
"The problem starts with the very nature of the mineral and the processes currently used to recover lithium from it. That may be solved with more efficient processing and that remains our focus.
"LieNA® could help mitigate much of the waste in the lithium industry.”
Lithium Australia continues to work towards commercialisation of its proprietary technology for the improved recovery of lithium from spodumene, the most common hard-rock source of lithium for the production of critical battery chemicals.
While the recovery rate of lithium from conventional spodumene beneficiation varies, it can be as low as 50% owing to the concentrate offtake specification constraints applied by the current generation of lithium chemical producers, all of which commence the process by roasting the concentrate.
No roasting required
LieNA®, which does not require a roasting stage, can recover lithium from the fine and contaminated spodumene that otherwise reports to waste or tailings streams during current concentration processes.
The technology consists of a caustic digestion process followed by acid leaching to recover the desired lithium chemical.
Because no roasting is required, LieNA® is a more environmentally friendly solution to processing spodumene.
Together, Lithium Australia and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) have completed extensive test work on the technology, with final recovery of lithium reported as greater than 85%.
With its ability to process fine and contaminated spodumene that would otherwise go to waste, LieNA® has the potential to expand current hard-rock lithium resources, thereby reducing mining costs.
It also has the potential to enhance the sustainability of spodumene production and the subsequent manufacture of lithium chemicals.