THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) reported on progress on construction of the company’s large-scale pilot plant (LSPP) to demonstrate its SiLeach® process at commercial scale.
Lithium Australia indicated the front-end engineering and design (FEED) for the plant is on track.
The FEED undertakings include preliminary equipment specifications, material selection, infrastructure, assessment of contracting strategies, discussion with vendors selected for the supply of specialised equipment, and logistic and scheduling activities.
The FEED study is scheduled for completion in Q3 2018.
Detailed metallurgical test work – designed to confirm final process design criteria in key areas of the flowsheet, including beneficiation, acid digestion and removal of impurities – is also well advanced.
Flotation test work on a master composite of the expected LSPP feed has focused on identifying the optimum combination of flotation feed particle size, mass recovery, stage efficiency, concentrate grade and re-grind product particle size.
Past test work indicated the importance of removing ultrafine particles from the flotation feed, since these can lead to poor mica recovery.
Results of the latest test work show lithium recoveries of 86 to 94 per cent, with 60 to 73 per cent of the mass reporting to rougher concentrate at a grade of 3 to 3.6 per cent Li2O (lithium oxide) from a feed grade of 2.5 per cent Li2O.
“The FEED study is advancing well and the improvements in lithium recovery are very encouraging,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.
“We’re pleased with the increase in confidence around by-product recovery, which is an important aspect of the SiLeach® revenue stream – we believe it will allow us to produce lithium chemicals from minerals but at the same low unit cost as that of the brine producers.
“Preliminary discussions with potential off-take partners have been encouraging and our planned laboratory-scale pilot run at ANSTO, while aimed primarily at finalising the flowsheet for construction, will generate significant amounts of lithium chemical product for testing by potential off-take partners.”