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Lithium projects make processing moves

New sources of lithium supply are inching closer as both Nemaska Lithium (CN:NMX) and Pure Energy Minerals (CN:PE) make advances at their respective projects in the Americas.
Lithium projects make processing moves Lithium projects make processing moves Lithium projects make processing moves Lithium projects make processing moves Lithium projects make processing moves

Nemaska plans to construct a commercial lithium processing facility in Shawinigan, Quebec

Paul Harris

In Canada, Nemaska is evaluating project financing alternatives for its Whabouchi spodumene project and plant in Quebec including debt and/or a strategic investment either at the company or project level.

Nemaska has started processing spodumene concentrate into lithium sulphate through the thermal roasting process at its phase one plant. It will then process this into battery-grade lithium hydroxide once it has sufficient inventory.

To date, Nemaska has produced 20 tonnes of battery-grade hydroxide for a customer using the latter's lithium sulphate solution as the primary source of raw material, and the customer approved the quality of the lithium hydroxide received.

The company received flotation concentrate at an average grade of 6.3% Li2O that was produced from mineral fines processed by SGS Lakefield via a flotation circuit. In addition, it produced a dense media separation concentrate at an average grade of 6.3% Li2O.

CEO Guy Bourassa said he was very pleased with the concentrate results from both flotation and DMS processing.

"At the phase one plant, the purification, electrolysis and crystallisation sections of the plant are performing very well … We are now on the cusp of starting our most important milestone, which is qualifying our products with customers," he said.

In Nevada, in the US, Pure Energy has executed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Tenova Advanced Technologies (TAT) and its technology partners to design, build and operate a pilot plant. This will demonstrate the viability of the lithium brine extraction and processing technologies developed and patented by TAT, called the Tenova Process, on brines from Pure Energy's Clayton Valley project.

The agreement contemplates the construction of a test facility in Nevada significantly larger than Pure Energy's mini-pilot plant that ran various tests at TAT's facility in Israel in 2016. TAT's technology partners include SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions and Solvay.

CEO Patrick Highsmith said: "Without the long production cycles and environmental impact of evaporation ponds and with recovery rates far exceeding conventional brine operations, the Tenova Process could become a better, faster and greener path to battery-grade lithium hydroxide production."

The pilot plant is expected to take up to 12 months to design and permit. Construction and operation would span another 12 months, at an overall cost of up to US$15 million. In addition to testing technical aspects and generating data for a future feasibility study, it will produce samples of high-purity lithium hydroxide monohydrate for potential customers.

In Chile, having completed a merger with Li3 Energy in October, Bearing Lithium (CN:BRZ) completed stage one testing at its Maricunga lithium brine project with the attainment of a 5% Li2O concentration. The production of its first lithium carbonate and potash samples are expected before year end.

Bearing aims to release a prefeasibility study for the project before year end. It has a free-carried 17.7% interest in the Maricunga lithium brine project.

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