Battery technology company Lithium Australia is to form a joint venture (JV) with Mineral Resources (MinRes) after the miner agreed to help progress the Perth-based company’s patented lithium extraction technology by solely funding the development and operation of a $4.5 million (USD 2.94 million) pilot plant. MinRes will also provide the raw materials to feed the extraction process.
Lithium Australia will contribute its patented LieNA lithium extraction technology which it said uses a chemical concentration process rather than the traditional energy intensive roasting process to extract lithium from raw spodumene.
The company, which will manage the pilot plant’s production process, said its technology is underpinned by its ability to recover lithium from fine and low-grade spodumene that is usually dumped as waste, improving mining efficiency, sustainability and potential profitability.
Lithium Australia said its LieNA technology has the potential to enhance lithium extraction yields by up to 50% more than current market performance.
Lithium Australia Chief Executive Officer Simon Linge said the agreement with MinRes serves as a “powerful validation” of the company’s technology.
“We are excited by the future opportunity to licence our proven high-value technology to all existing and new lithium mines across Australia and the rest of the world,” he said.
On successful completion of the pilot plant operations and engineering study, Lithium Australia and MinRes will form a 50:50 JV that will own and commercialise the LieNA technology.
The JV will initially license the LieNA technology to a larger demonstration plant which MinRes can elect to independently fund, develop, and operate. The larger plant will aim to extract lithium salt at a commercial scale under the licence.
The JV also plans to license the LieNA technology to third-parties with early target jurisdictions including Western Australia and North America, with potential for expansion into Europe and Africa.
MinRes is the second Australian lithium miner moving to add value along the processing supply chain after Pilbara Minerals and Australian technology company Calix last week announced plans to build a trial plant at the miner’s Pilgangoora project in Western Australia.
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