A $3 million research and development facility being built in Perth by lithium specialist Lepidico (ASX: LPD) continues to remain on budget and schedule for commissioning in April.
The pilot plant project – which will employ the company’s proprietary L-Max technology – is currently in the implementation phase with major equipment such as crystallisers, evaporators and pressure filters already installed and the remainder scheduled for delivery this month.
Steel skids to house the process equipment – designed and constructed by Perth-based mining and mineral processing engineering consultancy Wilshaw – have been received and installation is progressing according to schedule.
Wet commissioning of the 15-kilogram per hour plant remains on track for April and will coincide with completion of a feasibility study for the phase one L-Max plant allowing prospective offtake and finance partners to conduct their due diligence activities.
The pilot plant will use like for like equipment, albeit on a smaller scale, to the planned phase one plant.
Lepidico aims to commence pilot plant operations in May, and has estimated $1.5 million will be required to operate the facility in addition to the upfront capital costs.
Last year, the company announced the aggregate amount of $4.5 million would be fully funded and falls within the cap (of approximately $9 million) placed on expenditures eligible for a research and development tax offset in Australia.
Plant feed sample
Lepidico’s pilot plant will provide material for L-Max product development work relating to amorphous silica, SOP fertiliser, caesium brine and the evaluation of plant residue as an environmental remediation product.
The materials generated will enable further development work to enhance the quality and value of each product, and potentially allow new products to be identified.
The lithium carbonate produced from the pilot plant will be used to provide samples for testing by prospective customers.
Earlier this month, a 20-tonne sample of lepidolite plant feed, sourced from the Alvarrões mine in north-east Portugal, arrived in Perth and will be crushed in preparation for mill commissioning activities.
Commissioning will be followed by flotation to produce lepidolite and amblygonite concentrates with a combined average target grade of approximately 4% lithium oxide.
Lepidico continues to hold an exclusive and pre-emptive right until March 2020 to finalise a commercial relationship with mine owner and operator Mota Ceramic Solutions regarding ore supply from Alvarrões including sale of ore or concentrate by MCS to Lepidico.
At midday, shares in Lepidico were up 15.38% to $0.03.