Neo Lithium Corp (CVE:NLC) (OCTMKTS:NTTHF) announced Wednesday it has produced battery-grade lithium carbonate at its pilot plant in Fiambala using concentrated brine from its wholly owned Tres Quebradas lithium project (3Q project) in Argentina's Catamarca province.
In a statement, Neo Lithium said the brine was extracted from the high-grade zone located in the northern zone of the 3Q Project and then evaporated at the company's industrial-scale ponds at the same location under similar conditions as production scale.
No chemical reagents were added to the brine other than minor amounts of hydrochloric acid (HCl) for pH control at the final stage of evaporation. The concentrated brine was then transported by truck to the pilot plant in Fiambala, which is located 160 kilometers from the 3Q Project.
Two different processes were tested to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate at the pilot plant, Neo Lithium said.
The First Process involves using the solvent extraction phase (SX-B) for Boron removal, a sulfation phase for calcium removal using Sodium Sulfate and a liming and carbonation phase to remove magnesium and any remaining calcium. The lithium carbonate process is then completed with three stages of soda ash carbonation, washing and drying.
Neo Lithium said that process produced lithium carbonate with a purity of 99.535%.
The company also tested a Second Process to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate by changing the sulfation phase for calcium removal by an acidification phase with Sodium Hydroxide. The remainder of the lithium carbonate process was then completed similarly to the First Process.
The results of the Second Process currently requires less volume of additives for calcium removal (only 8,000 tons of Sodium Hydroxide versus 40,000 tons of Sodium Sulfate for 20,000 tons per annum production of lithium carbonate).
The price-per-ton of Sodium Hydroxide is higher than the price-per-ton of Sodium Sulfate. However, Sodium Hydroxide is sourced locally, and Sodium Sulfate is imported. Transporting less volume means decreased transport and logistics costs.
In addition, the Second Process consumes a fraction of freshwater than the First Process, making the new proposed process more environmentally conscious. And the Second Process is completed at room temperature, whereas the First Process requires 60 degrees Celsius, implying a meaningful saving in energy consumption.
2nd process achieves 99.599% purity
Neo Lithium said the results of the Second Process produced lithium carbonate with a purity of 99.599%, which is higher than the First Process.
The company noted that the final economic results of the announced optimization obtained during the Second Process to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate can only be confirmed once the company finalizes its definitive feasibility study (DFS).
And its management believes that the improved Second Process can have significant advantages versus the First Process.
"We continue to improve and optimize our process with a team of outstanding chemists and technicians," said CEO Waldo Perez.
"We not only proved that we can produce battery-grade lithium carbonate with our known process, but also optimized and improved the purity of the lithium carbonate with a high potential to lower costs. We will continue to optimize and fine-tune the process as we work towards a DFS."
In other company news, Neo Lithium has granted to directors, officers and consultants of the company stock options to purchase a total of 1,955,000 common shares at a price of $0.75 apiece. The options are exercisable for a period of five years.
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