Lithium Australia has announced that through its ability to produce lithium from unconventional sources, it has identified a metallurgical process route which may provide security for the European renewable energy industry.

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Drill-hole section showing results. Image source: ©Lithium Australia

Lithium Australia's recent use of mine waste to produce lithium-ion batteries formed the basis of a recently completed processing evaluation for the company's Sadisdorf lithium/tin project in Saxony, Germany.

That evaluation contemplated the production of high-performance cathode powders from mica recovered from tin-mining operations at the location. The processes required have been extensively pilot-tested and market evaluation of the types of cathode powders produced is ongoing in China and Japan.

Results of the investigations allow Lithium Australia to confidently commit to the next step towards commercialising operations at the Project and ultimately producing cathode powders in Europe.

Lithium Australia’s Managing Director, Adrian Griffin believes that Sadisdorf presents a significant opportunity to advance an unconventional lithium resource to the status of a strategic asset.

“The plan is to downstream-process via our proprietary VSPC technology to produce cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries,” said Mr Griffin.

“This has the potential to provide energy security within the European renewables sector. Lithium Australia is the first company in the world to produce lithium-ion batteries from the types of material available at Sadisdorf, and we look for-ward to advancing this operation to commercialisation.”

Lithium Australia is of the opinion that, by situating a SiLeach® plant at Sadisdorf to treat locally available micas and converting the lithium chemicals produced to cathode powders, as has been previously demonstrated at pilot scale, the Company could combine low capital intensity with high margins to reduce the European battery industry's reliance on imported lithium ion battery components.

Lithium Australia, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Trilithium Erzgebirge GmbH, has a 100 per cent beneficial interest in the project, which is currently on care and maintenance.

Historically Sadisdorf was a tin-mining enterprise, the tin veins occurring within a greisen, with the pervasive alteration within the granite consisting of lithium micas.

Currently, the project contains an Inferred Resource of 25 Mt @ 0.45% Li2O. A three-hole diamond drilling campaign completed in May 2018 was designed to confirm historic data and test the outer boundaries of the mineral resource model.

Drilling results from that programme suggest the potential for a future resource upgrade. In addition to lithium and tin, significant tungsten mineralisation was encountered in parts of the inner alteration (greisen) zone.

In light of the positive results from the drilling campaign, an evaluation of processing options was initiated in the latter half of 2018 and finalised in January 2019.

The project concept involves the extraction of both tin and lithium from the deposit, initially by open cut mining. Zinnwaldite mineralisation (a mica containing the target lithium) is beneficiated by conventional wet, high-intensity magnetic separation and the cassiterite mineralisation (containing the target tin) via a combination of conventional flotation and gravity separation. The tin concentrate is considered of sufficient quality for direct sale, while the lithium concentrate is further processed hydrometallurgically using SiLeach® into lithium phosphate, with potassium sulphate as a by-product.