LITHIUM CARBONATE TECHNOLOGY
In answer to the recent interest in Lithium markets, Strategic Metallurgy, in association with Lepidico, has developed a hydrometallurgical process to extract and recover battery grade lithium carbonate from lithium containing mica. The process involves direct atmospheric leaching of lithium containing mica, several impurity removal stages with subsequent lithium carbonate precipitation. It differs considerably from the processing of spodumene, which requires high temperature decrepitation and sulfate roasting prior to lithium recovery. This novel process is less complex with anticipated lower energy requirements. The processing of lithium containing micas results in the production of potassium and rare metal containing by-products, which will significantly off-set the operating costs of lithium carbonate production.
The process has been extensively tested in a series of batch laboratory tests using ore from Lithium Australia NL and Lepidico. The flotation of lithium mica from the pegmatite ore was successful, achieving >90% recovery. The flotation process has not yet been optimised, and it is expected that further development work will result in recovery and grade improvements.
The results from the batch hydrometallurgical test work program indicated the viability of the proposed flowsheet to produce battery grade lithium carbonate and potassium containing fertiliser. The next phase of work will involve optimisation testing in conjunction with computer modelling. This will determine expected recoveries as well as reagent, water and energy requirements.
Lepidico is an Australian mineral processing technology company developing an innovative process for extracting lithium from a previously underdeveloped source. In the very near future all the commercial arrangements required to launch Lepidico as a significant technology provider will be put in place.