Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has continued advancing its efforts in creating a sustainable and vertically integrated battery mineral mining, processing, manufacturing and recycling business.
In this morning’s company update, Lithium Australia revealed it had made “significant progress” in its partnership with major Chinese battery manufacturer DLG Battery.
Back in May, the duo announced a letter of intent had been signed to form a joint venture business to supply and sell lithium-ion batteries, packs and modules throughout Australia.
Part of the deal was commercialising Lithium Australia’s wholly-owned subsidiary’s VSPC’s cathode powder in China.
The duo has now formalised its business plans including objectives, goals and budgets, with representatives from both companies to meet this month and develop the corporate structure for implementing these plans.
DLG Battery has continued testing VSPC’s cathode powders along with customers in Japan and India.
Recycling spent lithium-ion batteries
Meanwhile, Lithium Australia has also progressed its work into recycling spent lithium-ion batteries, with the goal of reducing the amount of batteries sent to landfill.
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) in Sydney is carrying out the next round of test work and will finalise a metallurgical flow sheet on recovering all battery minerals from used lithium-ion batteries.
As part of the research, design of a pilot plant has begun, with the flow sheet aiming to recover lithium from batteries as lithium phosphate, which can then be used in lithium iron phosphate cathode materials or converted to lithium hydroxide.
To firm up its battery recycling strategy, Lithium Australia has taken a stake in Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd, which currently operates Australia’s only facility for shredding lithium-ion batteries.
The company generates a powder containing critical battery minerals which is then exported for refining.
Lithium Australia expects to secure its full 18.9% interest in Envirostream by mid-August.
With only 3% of spent batteries currently recycled, Envirostream is rolling-out battery collection points across Australia and has now established an extra 50 collection points since its collaboration with Lithium Australia was announced in April.
Commenting on today’s updates Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said the company’s activities had placed it in a “unique position” to provide sustainable solutions to the battery industry.
“We are passionate about improving the utilisation of resources and reducing negative impacts on the environment as we do so,” Mr Griffin added.
Lithium and vanadium exploration
Meanwhile, as part of Lithium Australia’s vertical integration strategy, it revealed it had completed 22 holes at the Youanmi lithium project for a total of 882m.
According to Lithium Australia, most of holes contained visible lithium lepidolite mineralisation, which it is looking to process into battery-grade lithium chemicals using the company’s proprietary SiLeach process.
In addition to searching for lithium minerals at Youanmi, Lithium Australia has also identified vanadium at the project and firmed up a maiden vanadium resource of 185 million tonnes at 0.33% vanadium pentoxide.
A four-hole drilling program targeting the vanadium mineralisation has also been completed with samples sent for metallurgical testing at ANSTO.
During the last few months, Lithium Australia has continued refining its proprietary lithium chemical processes and has lodged patents for various parts of its lithium phosphate precipitation and refining stages.
The company has also progressed work involving converting lithium phosphate directly into lithium hydroxide which commands a premium price to lithium carbonate in the lithium-ion battery market.
Under its lithium chemical strategy, Lithium Australia continues working on cheap and simple procedures which can remove impurities from lithium phosphate to boost product quality and consistency, with recent test work at ANSTO resulting in a decrease in sodium, potassium and sulphur impurities.
Additionally, Lithium Australia is advancing its LieNa proprietary processing technology which uses a caustic digest technique to convert spodumene concentrate into lithium chemicals.
A feasibility study is underway using LieNa and investigating ways to optimise leach, impurity removal and product recovery processes.
By mid-morning trade, shares in Lithium Australia had lifted 12.50% to reach $0.054.