Lithium One Inc. (TSX VENTURE:LI), has reported the first recovery of lithium carbonate and potassium chloride from its on-site pilot-plant.
The operating pilot facility represents a smaller scale simulation of a commercial evaporation process operation that has been designed to concentrate and recover lithium (for lithium carbonate production) and potassium (for muriate of potash production) from the Sal de Vida brines.
The pilot facility, including evaporation ponds and a lithium carbonate plant, commenced operation in early October 2010. This is a key step towards the feasibility study at Sal de Vida, which is targeted for early 2012. The pilot plant test work allows Lithium One to optimize the low-cost evaporation technology for the commercial production of lithium carbonate and muriate of potash (potassium chloride). Lithium carbonate in high purity forms is the preferred commercial product for the lithium battery industry. Production of battery-grade lithium carbonate and by-product potash is the objective of the Sal de Vida Project.
After only four months of evaporation processing, lithium concentrations of more than 1.25% have already been achieved in the test ponds. The potassium content of the brines at the potash recovery stage is at or above 4%. To date, four batches of lithium carbonate and two batches of potash have been recovered from the pilot facility. These interim results are on track to meet or exceed the 2% lithium and 4% potassium concentrations achieved in the laboratory scale evaporation tests on Sal de Vida brine which were completed in the third quarter of 2010. Realization of these concentrations would compare favourably to commercial lithium evaporation plants and have a significant positive impact on capital and operating costs for a future full-scale operation.
Lithium One President and CEO Patrick Highsmith commented, "We are very happy with the results we are seeing from the Sal de Vida evaporation tests and pilot plant. The results achieved in this short time frame confirm the quality of the brine chemistry and its performance in real-world testing conditions, which bodes well for the future economics of the process. This landmark in our process is analogous to taking a bulk sample from a gold deposit and confirming the gold is amenable to low-cost heap leach processing. With the pilot plant operating we have accelerated our pace towards feasibility at the end of the year, while simultaneously working to complete the first resource estimate on the project in the next few weeks."
Pilot Facility Details
The theoretical plant design (flowsheet) and the corresponding pilot test facility were designed by process engineering consultant, Jerome Lukes. Mr. Lukes has extensive experience with recovery of lithium from evaporation circuits, including a key role in development of the world's largest lithium and potassium solar evaporation recovery process at Salar de Atacama. The Sal de Vida pilot plant evaporation tests will run at least 12 months in order to simulate one full year of weather conditions at the salar.
The on-site test facility consists of two brine wells, two weather stations, six evaporation ponds, and containerized pilot plant, laboratory, and office. The operation consists of three stages:
Pre-treatment stage. Most magnesium is removed from the brines using lime in the pre-treatment phase. Results to date indicate that the Sal de Vida brines are low in magnesium, which should make removal at this stage effective and low-cost.
Evaporation stage. In the second stage, brine is naturally evaporated in a series of 6 ponds, simulating the evaporation process of a future full-scale, commercial operation. Ponds are of 6 and 3-metres diameter and 0.60m deep. The larger test ponds are made of reinforced fiberglass and the smaller ones are made of metal. The first four ponds concentrate the brine and are designed to remove excess halite (common salt), while the remaining two ponds further concentrate the brine and crystallize a halite/potash (potassium chloride) solid. This solid is further processed in a commercial plant to produce muriate of potash. Excess calcium, sulphate and boron are removed throughout the system.
Lithium recovery stage. In the third stage, the concentrated brine will be treated in the pilot plant to remove the remaining boron (a potentially valuable by-product) and trace magnesium and calcium, producing lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) in pilot plant quantities. The final boron and magnesium treatment hardware has not yet been installed, so the initial lithium carbonate products are of lower purity than the final test product will be.
Four batches of lithium carbonate have been recovered from the evaporation-concentrated brines, with several more to be completed before the yields are representative. Analysis of the brines from the evaporation pond system and pilot plant confirm that the chemistry is behaving generally as expected with respect to K, Na, Li and Cl.
Review by Qualified Person
The contents of this news release, analytical data, and process testing details have been reviewed and approved by Mr. George C. Lukes. Mr. Lukes is a certified Professional Engineer in the state of Utah (P.E. #: 171939-2202) and a qualified person as defined by National Instrument 43-101. Both Mr. George Lukes and Mr. Jerome Lukes are completely independent of Lithium One, owning no securities of any kind in the Company.
Source: Lithium One Inc.