Lithium Power International (ASX: LPI) has produced a maiden 99.4% lithium carbonate sample from its 50%-owned Maricunga project in Chile’s lithium triangle.
Germany-based GEA used Maricunga ore to produce the first lithium carbonate using conventional technology.
“The brine was concentrated at the pilot plant solar evaporation ponds at the Maricunga site for almost 12 months, and, subsequently, treated at the GEA lab in Duisburg, Germany, to purity it and precipitate lithium carbonate suitable for battery grade specification similar to those produced in Chile by Albemarle and SQM,” principal process consultant to Maricunga Peter Ehren stated.
He said the processing route was also scalable for commercial production.
Traditionally, the benchmark grade for battery grade lithium-ion purity is set at 99.5%, with Lithium Power’s maiden lithium carbonate coming in at 99.4%. However, the 99.4% pure lithium-carbonate exceeds Lithium Power’s 99.3% minimum concentration target.
Assays remain pending for the final chloride and sulfate results, with Lithium Power claiming it was still optimising its processing methods to reduce impurities such as calcium. The company reported this will be “easily achievable”.
Lithium Power chief executive officer Martin Holland said that a value-added, refined product had been produced that would meet lithium-ion battery manufacturers’ requirements.
Additionally, a concurrent environmental impact study, which is underway, is due to wind up in the coming months.
The environmental study is being undertaken in parallel the project’s definitive feasibility study and process optimisation research.
A preliminary economic assessment was published in early January which revealed the project could produce up to 20,000 tonnes per annum of lithium carbonate equivalent and 74,000tpa of potassium chloride.
Excluding potassium chloride credit, operating costs for the project were estimated at US$2,938 per tonne of lithium carbonate equivalent, with the project containing a net present value of US$1.01 billion based on a 6% discount. Project payback is anticipated within three years and three months.
Shares in Lithium Power rose 4.55% to rest at A$0.46 in early morning trade.