Lithium is having a day

As mining news headlines go, just as in life, you should always look for the positive. Markets will wane, production numbers will drop, but a higher tide is always around the bend in this uber-cyclical industry.

Right now, amid an issue that highlights critical minerals, there is a trend of encouraging news for lithium projects. In early April, Surge Battery Metals confirmed an entry and exploration deal with the Salmon River Cattleman’s Association, with permission to start drilling and surface use of the association’s private ground to advance the Nevada North lithium project, a sizeable step forward for its journey.

Many are also following the work of Piedmont Lithium, and at press time the North Carolina company announced the receipt of its mining permit for the construction, operation and reclamation of the Carolina Lithium project in Gaston County. It originally had submitted its application for review about 2.5 years ago.

Piedmont Lithium President and CEO Keith Phillips, who has called the project highly strategic for its positioning in the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt and U.S. Battery Belt, noted the asset is being designed as a fully integrated mining, spodumene concentrate, and lithium hydroxide manufacturing operation. “There are currently no such integrated sites operating anywhere in the world, and the economic and environmental advantages of this strategy are compelling,” he said.

Piedmont is designing the future operation to produce 30,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide annually, which would be significantly more than the current American production capacity of about 20,000 mt/y.

Another high-profile and interesting project coming to fruition, this one in the Southeast, is from Standard Lithium, which has just confirmed commissioning and performance validation of the continent’s largest continuously operating direct lithium extraction (DLE) equipment – after recently installing a commercial-scale DLE column at its demonstration plant near El Dorado, Ark.

The column, a Li-Pro Lithium Selective Sorption (LSS) unit supplied by Koch Technology Solutions, is now extracting lithium from Smackover Formation brine at an input flow rate of 90 gallons per minute.

“This is, to the best of the company’s knowledge, both the largest DLE installation, and the only example of a commercial-scale DLE column in operation in North America. Since commissioning, the column has operated continuously and exceeded the design parameters for lithium recovery and rejection of impurities,” the company said in late April.

Director, President and COO Dr. Andy Robinson confirmed that, as of that point, the most recent full-size commercial scale Li-Pro LSS column had completed 86 operational cycles, and the technology had completed more than 8,500 operational cycles at the demo plant. It had also, as of the end of March, processed over 17 million gal. of Smackover brine. While each project is working at its own pace, they have their own positive paths ahead, and NAM will be following their progress along the way.

Donna Schmidt
Editor, North American Mining magazine
[email protected]
(740) 624-4642
Twitter: @Dschmidt_NAM

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