Lithium Universe tackles North American market gap with global spodumene testing initiative
Lithium Universe (ASX: LU7) has commenced metallurgical testing on sources of spodumene from around the globe in response to what it describes as a “lithium conversion capacity gap” in the North American market.
The company’s testing process will utilise a flow sheet developed for the company’s Québec Lithium Processing Hub refinery based on the design of the successful Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant in China.
To oversee the operation, Lithium Universe has brought in internationally-regarded lithium expert Dr Jingyuan Liu.
He will utilise a testing protocol which matches the lithium carbonate process established for Lithium Universe’s proposed Québec lithium carbonate refinery.
Lithium Universe chair Iggy Tan said the company has strategically designed a program which will demonstrate the viability of its process in generating battery-grade lithium carbonate from various spodumene concentrates available in the market.
“I appreciate Dr Jingyuan Liu’s outstanding efforts and connections that enabled the initiation of this test work program six months post-listing,” Mr Tan said.
“Despite the decline in lithium prices affecting numerous industry players, Lithium Universe is full steam ahead.”
“We view the current short-term dip in lithium prices as an advantageous window to finalise feasibility studies before the onset of the next cycle.”
“These moments present tangible opportunities for our organisation,” he added.
Refinery adaptability key
Lithium Universe is designing its downstream standalone lithium refinery to have a robust capability to process spodumene feedstock from any part of the world, subject to freight and transportation costs.
It is initially bringing in samples from Australia and South America featuring various lithium grades as part of its metallurgical laboratory processing in the company’s contracted laboratory.
The company says it is critical that the proposed refinery has the capability to efficiently process spodumene feedstock from diverse sources worldwide.
Mr Tan said adaptability will ensure that the proposed lithium production operation remains robust and flexible, offering optionality in spodumene feedstock while the Canadian supply chain continues to develop.
“This strategic approach positions the proposed lithium refinery to navigate fluctuations in the global spodumene market, maintaining operational continuity and stability.”
Lithium Universe has carefully selected a diverse range of commercial spodumene concentrates for its tests, encompassing a broad spectrum of grades, particle sizes and impurities.
The test program is examining calcination, sulphation, leaching, impurity removal, precipitation and final purification, all aimed at achieving a battery-grade product.
To date, the testing is progressing smoothly and no challenges with any of the spodumene samples have been identified.
One complete program has successfully achieved 99.7% lithium carbonate, which is significant when compared to the international battery grade specification of 99.5%.
The company says the ongoing test work program is an integral component of the engineering study being conducted by Hatch for the QLPH multi-purpose battery-grade lithium carbonate refinery.
That refinery is designed to handle a capacity of 16,000 metric tons per annum, assuming a spodumene feed grade of approximately 5.5% lithium.
Within the scope of this program, spodumene samples ranging from 5.0% to 6.0% lithium with diverse particle sizes are being subjected to comprehensive testing.