Lithium Universe tests show proposed refinery can handle various spodumene types

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By Imelda Cotton - 
Lithium Universe ASX LU7 Becancour refinery different spodumene

Metallurgical testing by Lithium Universe (ASX: LU7) has shown that battery-grade lithium carbonate with greater than 99.5% purity can be produced from various types of spodumene concentrate using the design flowsheet of its proposed lithium refinery in Québec.

The tests are conducted at a lithium research center within China’s Linyi University, using spodumene samples from Australia, Brazil and Africa.

These samples have grades of up to 6% lithium oxide and vary in levels of key impurities, including magnesium, calcium and iron.

The tests form an integral component of a definitive feasibility study for the refinery, which is being completed by Hatch.

Follow-up testing

A second batch of testing was recently completed to stringent battery-grade specifications, with all process streams being fully analysed to ensure a thorough understanding of the lithium extraction and battery production cycle.

The primary concern in battery-grade lithium carbonate is the sodium levels, which must be less than 250 parts per million.

However, the Bécancour process is designed to yield an even higher quality product, boasting sodium levels below 100 ppm.

Additionally, the calcium content is below 13 ppm, compared to the 50 ppm specification.

Battery-grade refinery

Located in Bécancour, the proposed multi-purpose, battery-grade lithium carbonate refinery will have a production capacity of 16,000 tonnes per annum, assuming a spodumene feed grade of approximately 5.5% lithium oxide.

Lithium Universe aims to establish the downstream standalone plant with the capability to process spodumene from any part of the world, offering optionality in feedstock while Canada’s supply chain continues to develop.

This approach is believed to position the refinery to navigate fluctuations in the global spodumene market.

China site visits

Earlier this month, a Lithium Universe delegation completed a series of site visits in China to meet with existing refineries in Shandong, Hubei and Sichuan.

The visits were used to gather feedback on the proposed design and construction philosophy of the Bécancour project.

They are believed to have reaffirmed the company’s commitment to navigating through lithium market dynamics and playing a pivotal role within North America’s growing lithium supply chain.

Preferred option

Renowned for its stability, safety, and cost-effectiveness, despite a relatively lower energy density compared to its nickel cobalt manganese counterpart, the lithium-ion phosphate battery is currently the preferred option for China’s domestic electric vehicle market, accounting for over 67% of installations in 2023.

With a cathode material reliant on lithium carbonate and iron phosphate, the battery is also reported to be well-suited for large-scale energy storage applications.