The Asia Miner

JUN 2018

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

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Page 37 of 51

the asia miner • volume 15 • issue 2 36 FEATURE: Lithium tradiƟonally "concentrated" their ore close to the mine site to reduce the physical volume of ore moved, although such concentraƟng sƟll results in shipments of product of only 6% lithium content. Higher value lithium refining and further processing has typically taken place offshore driven by the historical posiƟon China established from its own relaƟvely small lithium extracƟon. Even though China is a smaller pr oducer, it has a major presence in downstream processing. As a result of the chemistry of lithium in concentrate, the act of processing concentrate further into baƩery grade product delivers a more than six-fold efficiency in transport and logisƟcs. Accordingly, by building this processing closer to the mine, value can be created by significant cost savings. Australia appears to be currently transiƟoning into this secondary stage of processing. Lithium Australia IntegraƟon of compaƟble technologies will 'close the loop' on energy- metal usage and re-birth waste materials as superior cathode powders for the manufacture of LIBs Lithium Australia is an Australia-based company, engaged in the project acquisiƟon, mineral exploraƟon and process development of lithium. According to the company mission, Lithium Australia has "has one over-arching goal: the applicaƟon of its disrupƟve processing technologies to the producƟon of lithium chemicals on a commercial scale and at an operaƟng cost in the lowest quarƟle". In Q1 2018, Lithium Australia acquired 99.7% of Very Small ParƟcle Company's (VSPC) – a Brisbane baƩery cathode developer – issued capital. VSPC is the brainchild of a number of prominent Queensland-based university research workers who spent 14 years and approximately AU$30 million developing what Lithium Australia believes to be the world's most advanced cathode producƟon technology for lithium-ion baƩeries. The acquisiƟon comprised of procuring VSPC's assets including intellectual property and a decommissioned pilot plant in Brisbane (Australia) designed to produce complex metal oxides/phosphate powders for the producƟon of LIBs. The plant incorporates not only Australia's most advanced LIB laboratory and tesƟng facility, but also equipment for cathode coaƟng and baƩery-cell producƟon. The VSPC acquisiƟon will provide Lithium Australia with the ability to deliver cathode materials into the global LIB supply chain from a number of sources. The iniƟal feed sources will include unconvenƟonal silicates such as micas contained in mine waste, low-grade and contaminated spodumene concentrates, waste materials from baƩery manufacturers and used LIBs. Lithium Australia Managing Director, Adrian Griffin, sees the uƟlisaƟon of mine waste, unconvenƟonal lithium minerals and waste baƩeries in the producƟon of high-quality cathode materials as the ulƟmate test of sustainability. "This approach will help reduce the pressure on primary sources of energy metals. The integrated technologies available to Lithium Australia will allow for beƩer resource uƟlisaƟon, reduce the quanƟty of valuable materials going to landfill and enable the rebirth of many materials as new generaƟon LIBs. "Supply shortages are already a reality in the lithium- ion baƩery space. VSPC provides us with the opportunity to manufacture the most advanced cathode materials in the world, at the high-margin end of the baƩery metals market. Importantly, VSPC will also allow us to capitalise on waste baƩeries as a feed source. "This step is not only a great advance for Lithium Australia but also a step in the right direcƟon for the development of sustainable energy technologies on an industrial scale." Lithium Australia's SiLeach® technology Lithium Australia has addiƟonally secured a AU$18.27 million converƟble note facility with a leading US insƟtuƟonal investor, Arena Investors LP. Funds will be applied to advancing Lithium Australia's large-scale Sileach® pilot plant for the producƟon of lithium chemicals and for recommissioning the VSPC lithium-ion baƩery cathode plant. SiLeach® technology is a chemical processing technology for the economic recovery of lithium from spodumene and lepidolite minerals. With large quanƟƟes of lithium conƟnuing to be discharged to waste streams emanaƟng from the producƟon of a range of industrial minerals, Lithium Australia set out to develop a more efficient processing technology to allow exploitaƟon of such materials. In July 2017, the company completed a preliminary feasibility study (PFS) on the applicaƟon of its SiLeach® technology to the recovery of lithium chemicals from micas. This led to the development of the SiLeach® process, a fluoride-accelerated sulphuric-acid leach at elevated temperature but atmospheric pressure. CommercialisaƟon of the SiLeach® process will allow exploitaƟon of micas, the most common lithium minerals, which are currently considered waste. Lithium Australia's SiLeach® Large-Scale Pilot Plant (LSPP) is designed to produce lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) at an annualised rate of 2,500 tonnes from approximately 27,500 tonnes of lepidolite mica feed (to a maximum grade of 4.5% Li2O), this output being approximately one-tenth the scale of output of a full-scale commercial lithium carbonate producƟon facility. Actual output will depend on the final feed grades achieved from a parƟcular source, the likelihood being that locally sourced feed will be of a lower grade and produce less output than the 2,500-tonne design capacity. "Supply shortages are already a reality in the lithium-ion battery space"

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