Lithium Australia has committed to developing a large-scale pilot plant by 2021, which will utilise its SiLeach technology.

The SiLeach technology, which underwent a preliminary feasibility study (PFS) in July 2017, is used for the recovery of lithium chemicals from micas.

Large quantities of lithium continue to be discharged to waste streams emanating from the production of a range of industrial minerals. Lithium Australia believes that such waste streams, which most commonly contain lithium micas, may prove the most cost-effective source of primary lithium. The development of more efficient processing technologies to allow exploitation of such materials is a major corporate achievement of Lithium Australia.

The PFS identified the water balance as a critical area for consideration. As a result, innovative process steps have been developed to improve the water balance, as have processes that capitalise on the co-production of potassium sulphate, a critical step in achieving optimum financial performance.

Lithium Australia expects to complete agreements during the current quarter, resulting in supply of the following.

  • The LSPP site
  • Infrastructure (power, water, gas, road and rail)
  • Major reagent supplies
  • Process feed material

Capital cost reductions in downstream unit processes have been achieved by the breakthrough in water management. The target feed material during the first 12 months of the LSPP's operation will be primary ore mined close to the proposed location of the plant, so crushing, grinding and concentration circuits will be required at the feed end of the plant, an additional equipment cost.

While the primary aim of the LSPP is to produce lithium chemicals, production of by-products is also integral to its development. Potentially, by-products like potassium sulphate, sodium silicate, caesium and rubidium can also be produced using the SiLeach® process.

"Our commitment to advancing the SiLeach® process to an industrial scale is a critical element in the research and development required to bring a superior process into the lithium industry. Success will allow us to utilise mine waste in the production of lithium chemicals, one of our great sustainability goals," said Lithium Australia's Managing Director, Adrian Griffin.