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Lithium Australia progresses commercialisation of next-gen lithium recovery process with exclusive E

Lithium Australia NL’s (ASX:LIT (OTCMKTS:LMMFF) (FRA:3MW) commercialisation of its next-generation LieNA® caustic conversion process for the recovery of lithium from spodumene is progressing well.

On April 28, 2021, the company executed a commercialisation agreement with Deutsche Rohstoff AG (DRAG), a German natural resources holding and investment company. 

The agreement provides for the issue of an exclusive LieNA® licence in Europe, subject to DRAG: 

  • Subscribing for 3.125 million fully paid ordinary shares in the capital of Lithium Australia for A$250,000 at commencement; 
  • Subscribing for A$400,000 of fully paid ordinary shares in the capital of Lithium Australia priced at 125% of the 30-day VWAP for those shares on the day that construction of the pilot plant is completed;
  • Paying Lithium Australia A$400,000 on delivery of a positive, European-based pre-feasibility study; and 
  • Paying a 2% gross royalty on product generated through application of the LieNA® process in Europe. 

The agreement will expire if DRAG fails to construct a LieNA® plant in Europe within a period of 10 years from the commencement date. 

“Commercialisation well underway”

Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said: “The lithium-ion battery industry does need to reduce its environmental footprint, and the improved recoveries afforded by LieNA® could lead to the production of more lithium chemical units from the same sized mining excavation – and at a lower unit cost. 

“The company’s R&D program, which is co-funded by a federal government research grant, will provide a more sustainable pathway for battery production.

“Lithium Australia’s commercialisation of its LieNA® process is well underway.” 

Pilot plant construction 

Construction of an autoclave for the pilot plant is underway in India and at this stage, COVID has had no impact on the construction schedule.

The company anticipates delivery of the autoclave to Australia in October 2021, with plant construction at ANSTO to be completed before the end of the year to enable the first pilot run. 

LIT was awarded a CRC-P grant as part of a $3.6 million development program that includes the construction and operation of the pilot plant in February, partnering with ANSTO, Essential Metals Ltd, VSPC Ltd, ALS Metallurgy Pty Ltd, Murdoch University, Curtin University and Carnac Project Delivery Services. 

Preliminary feasibility study

Along with the commencement of the pilot plant construction, spodumene has been recovered from drill samples recovered by drilling at the Pioneer Dome project of Essential Metals Ltd (ASX:ESS), with a spodumene concentrate then produced by ALS Metallurgy to provide initial feed for the pilot plant.

That feed will be used to produce a refined lithium phosphate product suitable for the direct production of lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) cathode powder. 

The LieNA® development program will culminate in a preliminary feasibility study to evaluate its viability in a number of jurisdictions, including Australia and Europe. 

Shorter path to battery production 

The LieNA® process is flexible enough to produce a range of lithium chemicals, including lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate and lithium phosphate. 

Significantly, lithium phosphate can provide direct feed for the production of LFP cathode powder, already produced by the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary VSPC Ltd at its Brisbane pilot plant and R&D facility. 

VSPC will take the lithium phosphate generated by LieNA® at the ANSTO pilot plant and use it to create LFP cathode powder, which in turn will be used to produce commercial format lithium-ion battery cells for testing.

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