Melbourne, Feb 13, 2024 AEST (ABN Newswire) – Lithium Universe Limited (ASX:LU7) is pleased to announce that in response to the Lithium conversion capacity gap in the North American market, the Company has initiated metallurgical testing on various sources of spodumene. This process involves utilizing the flow sheet developed for the Quebec Lithium Processing Hub Refinery. As previously disclosed, the QLPH refinery will mirror the successful Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate plant, incorporating all the enhancements made during commissioning and startup.
The objective of establishing a downstream standalone lithium refinery is to design it with the robust capability to process spodumene feedstock from any part of the world, subject to freight and transportation costs. Samples from Australia and South America featuring various lithium grades have been collected and are currently undergoing metallurgical laboratory processing in LU7’s contracted laboratory. It is critical that the proposed refinery has the capability to efficiently process spodumene feedstock from diverse sources worldwide. This adaptability ensures that the lithium production operation remains robust and flexible, offering optionality in spodumene feedstock while the Canadian supply chain continues to develop. This strategic approach positions the proposed lithium refinery to navigate fluctuations in the global spodumene market, maintaining operational continuity and stability. The proposed site that the Company is targeting has port and river access allowing spodumene import from Africa and South America.
Under the guidance of lithium expert Dr. Jingyuan Liu (NED), the testing protocol faithfully replicates the lithium carbonate process established for the Company’s proposed Quebec Lithium Carbonate Refinery. The program is strategically designed to demonstrate the viability of the process in generating battery-grade lithium carbonate from various spodumene concentrates available in the market.
Lithium Universe has meticulously selected a diverse range of commercial spodumene concentrates for these tests, encompassing a broad spectrum of lithium grades, particle sizes, and impurities. The comprehensive test program encompasses calcination, sulphation, leaching, impurity removal, precipitation, and final purification, all aimed at achieving a battery-grade product. Currently, the testing is progressing smoothly, and no challenges have been identified with any of the spodumene samples. Each test program is thorough and spans several weeks, with one complete program already concluded successfully achieved 99.7% LiCO3 against the international battery grade specification of 99.5% Li CO3. All impurity levels were well within specification limits.
The ongoing testwork program is an integral component of the engineering study being conducted by Hatch Ltd Hatch) for the Company’s Quebec Lithium Processing Hub (QLPH) multi-purpose battery-grade lithium carbonate refinery. The Refinery is designed to handle a capacity of 16,000 metric tons per annum, assuming a spodumene feed grade of approximately 5.5% Li2O. Within the scope of this program, spodumene samples, ranging from 5.0% to 6.0% Li2O with diverse particle sizes, are being subjected to comprehensive testing. This initiative aligns with the overall engineering study aimed at ensuring the efficacy of the lithium carbonate production process within the specified parameters of the QLPH refinery.
The laboratory testing process for lithium carbonate production from spodumene involves several key steps:
1. Calcination: Spodumene is heated to 1080degC to undergo calcination, a process that removes impurities and prepares the material for further processing.
2. Dry Milling: The calcined spodumene is dry-milled to reduce particle size to less than 300 um.
3. Sulphation and Roasting: The milled spodumene is mixed with concentrated sulfuric acid and roasted at 250degC, resulting in sulphated spodumene.
4. Leaching: The sulphated spodumene is cooled and introduced into the leach circuit to extract lithium.
5. Thickening and Filtration: The combined leached solids and precipitated impurities undergo thickening and are then filtered using a belt filter.
6. Polishing and Ion Exchange: The filtrate, combined with thickener overflow, is processed through a polishing sand filter and an ion exchange column to remove residual calcium, magnesium, and other multivalent cations.
7. Lithium Carbonate Production Area: The solution is heated and reacted with a hot sodium carbonate solution in a single crystallizer operating at 95degC.
8. Crystallization: Coarse crystals from the crystallizer are thickened before passing to filtration.
9. Purification to Battery Grade: Raw lithium carbonate undergoes further purification using the carbonation process. The solution is slurried in demineralized water, forming soluble lithium bicarbonate through the bubbling of carbon dioxide gas.
10. Filtration and Recrystallization: The solution is filtered, and lithium carbonate is re-crystallized by heating with injected steam. Carbon dioxide gas generated in this step is recycled to the front end of the purification process.
11. Centrifugation and Drying: Battery-grade lithium carbonate is centrifuged and then dried at 120degC.
This series of laboratory tests ensures the transformation of spodumene into high-purity battery-grade lithium carbonate through a systematic and controlled process, (See Figure 2* Process Flow Diagram)
Commenting on the test work, Chairman, Mr. Iggy Tan expressed his satisfaction with the remarkable advancements in metallurgical test work and the swift setup process. “I appreciate Dr. Jingyuan Liu’s outstanding efforts and connections that enabled the initiation of this test work program six months post-listing.
Despite the decline in lithium prices affecting numerous industry players, Lithium Universe is full steam ahead. We view the current short-term dip in lithium prices as an advantageous window to finalize feasibility studies before the onset of the next cycle. These moments present tangible opportunities for our organization.” he said.
*To view tables and figures, please visit:
About Lithium Universe Ltd
Lithium Universe Ltd (ASX:LU7), headed by industry trail blazer, Iggy Tan, and the Lithium Galaxy team has a proven track record of fast-tracking lithium projects, demonstrated by the successful development of the Mt Cattlin spodumene project for Galaxy Resources Limited.
Instead of exploring for the sake of exploration, Lithium Universe’s mission is to quickly obtain a resource and construct a spodumene-producing mine in Quebec, Canada. Unlike many other Lithium exploration companies, Lithium Universe possesses the essential expertise and skills to develop and construct profitable projects.
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