The Asia Miner

JUL-SEP 2018

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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the asia miner • volume 15 • issue 3 30 WASTE TO ENERGY As the world's hunger for energy reaches dizzying heights, lithium and its chemical compounds conঞnue to make large strides on the commodiঞes market due to their wide range of industrial applicaঞons, especially in their use in lithium-ion baeries (LIBs) . As night follows day, so is an increase in world-wide demand for lithium followed by an increase in lithium mine wastes that are volumetrically one of the world's largest waste streams. But what if those wastes could be converted into baery-grade lithium and potash? A Brisbane/Perth-based lithium company, Lepidico, has developed L-Max® process technology, which has the potenঞal to commercially extract lithium chemicals for the burgeoning electric baery market. Currently, lithium is obtained from two major sources: brines and hard rock spodumene. There exist, however, other lithium-rich minerals including lepidolite, zinnwaldite and amblygonite, which have been discarded and overlooked as potenঞal sources. These untapped sources of lithium o[en co-exist with spodumene or tantalite in pegmaঞte deposits and are someঞmes mined and discarded to tailings. "These minerals have previously been considered 'waste', when found within pegmaঞte deposits containing other lithium minerals such as spodumene, or of geological curiosity only," commented Gavin Becker, Lepidico General Manager – Business Development. Lepidico is expecঞng to bring on-stream an addiঞonal 'leg' of cost compeঞঞve lithium supply to the baery industry by processing lithium mica and phosphate mineral concentrates using its proprietary L-Max® technology. "When drilling hard rock deposits, such as pegmaঞtes containing lithium ores, it's very important to idenঞfy the lithium minerals that are present rather than just report lithium assays," conঞnued Mr Becker. "O[en, for example, a significant proporঞon of the lithium is not in the convenঞonally desirable or target spodumene mineral but in other lithium containing minerals, including micas and phosphates, that could not or should not be recovered into a saleable spodumene product. "Such micas and phosphates would contaminate the spodumene product unless removed, resulঞng in a loss of recoverable lithium potenঞal. L-Max® turns this problem into an opportunity." Earlier this year, Lepidico announced that it had successfully produced baery-grade lithium carbonate grading 99.8 per cent, using its L-Max® process technology from a tailings stream sourced from the Galaxy Resource Mt Calin spodumene operaঞons. Hydrometallurgical batch tests have been completed on a secondary float ("tailings") sample sourced from the Mt Calin Dense Media Separaঞon plant. A tailings sample was provided for the testwork, which graded 2.7 per cent Li2O. From this, a flotaঞon concentrate was produced grading over 4.0 per cent Li2O. Lithium recovery to concentrate was 96.6 per cent. The sample was then subjected to leaching under standard L-Max® condiঞons, with extracঞons for lithium of approximately 94 per cent. Higher extracঞons are expected by undertaking an opঞmisaঞon program to achieve rates similar those achieved in tests conducted on other lithium mica samples which realised over 98per cent extracঞon. The leach liquor from the test was subjected to the usual L-Max® downstream process flowsheet in a series of batch tests. Lithium losses in the post leach L-Max® process were esঞmated at 4 per cent, with total recovery from flotaঞon concentrate to final product of over 90per cent. Opঞmisaঞon testwork specific to Mt Calin is being evaluated to maximise lithium and by-product extracঞons, while minimising acid and power consumpঞon. "This testwork programme demonstrates convenঞonal flotaঞon coupled with Lepidico's proprietary L-Max® process technology can be used to produce baery grade lithium carbonate from modest lithium grade tailings sourced from primary spodumene operaঞons", said Lepidico's Managing Director, Joe Walsh said. "This work implies that L-Max® can materially enhance the Mineral Resource potenঞal and thereby value of mixed lithium mineral hard-rock deposits that contain lithium-micas." Mr Becker sees the posiঞves of L-Max® to be numerous and complimentary. "L-Max® uঞlises low-cost 'nuisance' sulphuric acid from smelters to allow treatment of previously under-appreciated lithium minerals for the producঞon of baery grade lithium at low ne cost. Because numerous by-products are also produced and sold into adjacent markets, the process results in a relaঞvely benign environmental footprint." Following the success of L-Max®, Lepidico has lodged a provisional patent applicaঞon for a hydrometallurgical process, S-Max™, developed in close collaboraঞon with Strategic Metallurgy – inventor of the L-Max® process. S-Max™ produces an amorphous silica from concentrates Lepidico's L-Max® process technology is turning mining waste to baery- grade lithium and potash Mt Cattlin tailings turned to battery-grade lithium carbonate

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