Test work on Galan Lithium’s (ASX: GLN) brine evaporation process at its flagship Hombre Muerto West project in Argentina has revealed a significant 25% increase in its lithium chloride concentrate grade to 6% lithium, or 32% lithium carbonate equivalent.
The company today emerged from a trading halt to unveil the “exciting” results, which topped the 4.8% lithium estimation announced in the project’s scoping study/preliminary economic assessment in December.
According to Galan, the project’s high-grade result is directly comparable to the lithium chloride concentrate produced by multibillion-dollar lithium giants SQM (NYSE: SQM) and Albemarle (NYSE: ALB) from the Atacama salt flat in Chile.
In addition, the company said Hombre Muerto West has a potential product advantage with its 12.9% lithium oxide level being equivalent to more than double the average concentrate grade of Australian lithium spodumene producers at 6% lithium oxide.
“Galan may then have the flexibility to place its lithium for downstream products anywhere in the world without the burden of high logistics costs, high carbon footprint and/or waste management,” it stated in the announcement.
Galan managing director Juan Pablo Vargas de la Vega said the results were better than the company envisaged and have “more than solidified the serious potential of the Hombre Muerto project.
“Grade is always king.”
“We have always followed the mantra of ‘walking before running’ and these results, whilst taking time to achieve, have affirmed our step-by-step approach of utilising proven technology with low risk in processing,” he added.
“Our teams in Argentina and Chile have been brilliant during these uncertain times and continue to deliver these essential project steps.”
Test work results
This second round of test work on the Hombre Muerto West’s raw brine was conducted by lithium experts Ad-Infinitum using the first stage of the natural brine evaporation process and finalised using accelerated evaporation in a wind tunnel under controlled conditions.
The results “far exceeded” the company’s expectations given the 4.8% lithium estimation made in the project’s scoping study last year.
The Hombre Muerto West project’s lithium grade is now one of the highest publicly-known brine concentration levels in the world, using the evaporation process.
“These grades provide Galan with exciting commercial opportunities for a lithium chlorine concentrate product,” the company said.
Furthermore, the test results showed very low levels of contaminants, especially sulphate, magnesium and calcium which were almost fully eliminated by the process.
Boron was also reduced “significantly”, while other elements including potassium, sodium and chlorine are expected to be removed during treatment at a downstream process, Galan reported.
It said it is confident the brine concentrate quality could be converted into a high-quality battery grade product while remaining cost-competitive.
Pilot works to start next quarter
Galan is evaluating the commercial potential in the global market for its high-grade lithium chloride concentrate as feed for downstream lithium battery products.
In today’s announcement, the company confirmed its aim to start initial Hombre Muerto West brine evaporation pilot works in the 2021 second quarter.
Meanwhile, it is continuing to test and optimise a range of lithium chloride concentrate solutions with conversion costs in mind to deliver the best commercial solution in the shortest time possible.
The company also plans to test the conversion of the high-grade lithium chloride to lithium carbonate battery grade and is reviewing the scope of work for a suitably fast-tracked path to bring the product to market.
“The high quality of the concentrated lithium chloride could be a major strategic differentiation for improving the economic performance of the project,” Galan stated.