Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has confirmed the “novelty and inventiveness” of its second generation LieNA® lithium processing technology.
The company received a patent for its first generation LieNA® technology in April that back-dates to August 2016.
With the second generation technology, the International Preliminary Examining Authority has now concluded it too is novel, inventive and industrial applicable.
Lithium Australia said this was a positive endorsement of its technology and it will now advance the National Phase assessment for the second generation LieNA® process in jurisdictions where it seeks legal protection.
“Further recognition of Lithium Australia’s 100%-owned LieNA® technology by the International Preliminary Examining Authority has followed close on the heels of the federal government’s grant to the company for the construction of a pilot plant that will advance the process towards commercialisation,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said.
Lithium Australia’s LieNA® technology can recover lithium from fine or variable grade spodumene that is usually discarded as waste.
The company pointed out that conventional spodumene processing has recovery rates as low as 50%, due to chemical producers having high specifications for their roasting process.
Unlike the current method, LieNA® is not constrained by particle feed size or grade.
LieNA® uses an alkaline source, such as caustic soda, to convert spodumene into a lithium-bearing sodalite.
The sodalite is then recovered and selectively leached to produce a lithium-bearing solution. This is further treated to generate a high-purity refined tri-lithium phosphate product.
Advancing towards commercialisation
To assist with advancing LieNA®, Lithium Australia collared a $1.3 million grant under the Australian Government’s CRC-P round 8 program.
In collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Lithium Australia has completed extensive test work on the technology.
Lithium Australia said it was now committed to a semi-continuous pilot plant evaluation of the flowsheet, which is the scope of the CRC-P grant.
“Recovering material that would otherwise go to waste is a fundamental building block in Lithium Australia’s quest to enhance sustainability, reduce costs and negate environmental impacts throughout the battery production cycle,” Mr Griffin explained.
“If we as a society want to maintain current living standards, we cannot afford to squander the resources and need to minimise our environmental footprint.”
“Commercialisation of LieNA® will take the lithium industry one step closer to achieving that goal,” he added.