In a “world first”, disruptive battery technology developer Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has successfully produced lithium-ion batteries from mine waste using its proprietary “ground-breaking” SiLeach process, opening up a world of possibilities for the rapidly growing new era energy industry.
Lithium Australia’s wholly-owned subsidiary VSPC produced lithium-ion battery cathode material and lithium-ion batteries using tri-lithium phosphate.
The tri-lithium phosphate was generated from mine waste using Lithium Australia’s SiLeach process, which eliminates the need for production of high-purity lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate – the most cost-intensive and challenging steps in developing lithium-ion batteries.
“The remarkable outcome is a credit to our development team,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said of the accomplishment.
“The most notable aspect of this achievement is its simplicity, and ability to streamline the processes and cost required to produce lithium-ion battery cathode materials.”
During the process, the tri-lithium phosphate was converted to a lithium-iron-phosphate cathode material at the VSPC lab in Queensland.
After analysis, the cathode material was deemed similar in quality to VSPC’s standard lithium-iron-phosphate and VSPC then used it to produce coin cell lithium-ion batteries.
The batteries were then tested under a range of charge and discharge conditions and achieved equivalent performance to VSPC’s advanced cathode powders, which use lithium carbonate as a manufacturing feed.
According to Lithium Australia, this “world-first” outcome shows the ability to eliminate production of lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, which could potentially “significantly reduce” lithium-ion battery manufacturing costs.
“This has the potential to provide a commercial outcome to many stranded resources creating ethical and sustainable supply in the process,” the company stated.
In addition to producing cathode powders from mine waste, Lithium Australia is also looking at generating cathode powders from lithium brines, which would eliminate the requirement for high-purity lithium hydroxide or carbonate production, as well as reduce the need for evaporation ponds.
“The broader application to lithium brine exploitation provides enormous potential for that part of the lithium industry, by removing the cost intensive route to lithium hydroxide – the direct use of lithium phosphate to produce cathode powders may do that,” Mr Griffin said.
‘Outstanding’ lithium recoveries
Today’s “ground-breaking” news follows Lithium Australia’s announcement yesterday it had achieved “outstanding” lithium recoveries during its two-stage pilot plant trial at ANSTO Minerals’ facility in New South Wales.
Final reporting data analysis revealed overall recovery to a product containing 95% pure tri-lithium phosphate using the SiLeach process, which can treat ore of varying sizes with numerous impurities.
“Such positive results bolster our intent to move forward with a large-scale pilot plant for SiLeach and recover and convert contaminated mine wastes into lithium chemicals,” Mr Griffin explained.
“It’s all part of our plan to develop a vertically integrated lithium production business, by providing sustainable technologies to the battery industry.”
“These results clearly demonstrate the potential to achieve greater utilisation of existing resources and reduce the environmental pressure created by the increased demand for energy metals,” Mr Griffin added.