Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has shored up more government support this week after revealing it will receive $1.3 million to underpin research and development of its proprietary LieNA® process.
The government’s Co-operative Research Centre Projects has awarded Lithium Australia the $1.3 million grant, which the company will use to advance its LieNA® technology that can recover lithium from fine spodumene in waste and tailings streams.
Current spodumene processing methods can result in lithium recovery rates as low as 50%.
Lithium Australia has been collaborating with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) in developing the technology which involves a caustic digestion process, followed by acid leaching.
This process recovers the desired lithium chemical without requiring a cost intensive roasting stage.
According to Lithium Australia, during extensive bench-scale testwork, using the LieNA® process boosts lithium recoveries up to 85%.
“LieNA® has the potential to commercially recover lithium from fine and contaminated material discharged to tailings by spodumene producers that currently achieve poor recoveries,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin explained.
“If LieNA® can improve the viability of hard rock lithium mining operations, its effects will be far-reaching,” he added.
Large support network underpins LieNA®’s next development stage
The total project cost for the next stage of developing LieNA® is estimated at $3.6 million, with numerous organisations contributing support in some form.
About $2.2 million of the project’s funds will be allocated to designing, construction and operating a pilot plant at ANSTO’s facility in New South Wales.
Other organisations contributing to the research include Pioneer Resources (ASX: PIO), which will be providing spodumene ore samples for the program.
ALS Metallurgy will process the spodumene sample for the pilot plant testwork at ANSTO using LieNA® to generate lithium phosphate.
Meanwhile, Murdoch University has agreed to complete residue re-use research on process streams from LieNA® and Curtin University will provide complete solid phase analysis on LieNA® generated samples.
Carnac Project Delivery Services has agreed to support the project by providing process-engineering and cost-estimation using its in-house technical expertise.
Once the lithium phosphate has been generated via LieNA®, Lithium Australia’s wholly-owned subsidiary VSPC will convert it into lithium ferro phosphate cathode powder using its own proprietary technology.
This will then by tested in lithium-ion batteries.
“We applaud the federal government for recognising the significance of this project and welcome input from lithium producers who would benefit from a positive outcome for this research,” Mr Griffin said.