Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT) is looking to close the loop of the energy metal cycle by last week revealing its intention to gain advanced Li-ion battery cathode production technology through the purchase of Very Small Particle Company (VSPC).
VSPC is an unlisted, Brisbane-based researcher and developer of some of the world’s most innovative and respected new era cathode materials for Li-ion batteries.
VSPC owns an innovative, patent-protected chemical process, delivering highly precise chemistry to complex metal oxides (cathode materials), which represents a fast track to commercialisation of superior cathode products.
LIT will be able to recommission VSPC’s advanced cathode pilot plant in Brisbane, accessing the world’s most advanced cathode materials and expanding VSPC’s strategic partnerships.
Central to LIT’s plan is to deploy new technologies to produce battery chemicals in the lowest cost quartile. To achieve this, LIT will commercialise its 100%-owned SiLeach lithium extraction technology develop the world’s best cathode materials via nanotechnology.
Vertical integration of these technologies will provide exposure to high-quality exploration assets, the most optimal lithium extraction technologies, leading edge Li-Ion cathode manufacturing technology, and re-entry into the cycle by recovery of energy metals from spent batteries.
The company has made significant headway towards commercialisation of its SiLeach hydrometallurgical lithium extraction technology, and has also embarked on a global exploration program and prepared graphite assets for IPO.
The rapidly expanding battery industry faces a number of considerable challenges, including a susceptibility to supply shortages, the ethical constraints of conflict metals, low battery recycling rates, and under-utilised waste streams.
In Australia, only 10% of batteries are currently recycled, and abundant lithium from mining operations is discharged to tailings as waste.
Mitigation of these kinds of issues is central in LIT’s approach to lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) and sustainability.
LIT strives to achieve a circular energy economy in terms of the production and utilisation of LIBs, and aims to integrate the highest performing technologies to do this.
SiLeach is a processing environment that efficiently digests and recovers all significant metal values from the minerals processed. It can therefore be applied to a wide range of lithium feedstock, with low energy consumption, high metal recoveries and extensive by-product credits.
As a hydrometallurgical process occurring entirely in solution (no roasting is required), SiLeach reduces energy consumption. It’s also undertaken at atmospheric pressure, so only simple mechanical components are necessary.
All metals within the target minerals are soluble in the SiLeach process, providing the opportunity to generate significant by-product credits, and to produce very clean lithium solutions.
This versatile technology also has applications beyond the recovery of lithium from silicates. For example, it has been tested on refractory gold ores to remove siliceous gangue material from the ore prior to cyanide recovery of gold.
Zoe Gross: finfeed.com