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Saturday, Jun 15, 2024
Mugglehead Magazine
Alternative investment news based in Vancouver, B.C.


CleanTech Lithium direct lithium extraction plant in Chile starts operations

Analysts have recently evaluated that lithium prices have reached their lowest point and anticipate a rebound by July

CleanTech Lithium direct lithium extraction plant in Chile starts operations
LIthium production in Chile. Image via CleanTech Lithium.

CleanTech Lithium‘s (AIM: CTL) direct lithium extraction (DLE) pilot plant in Copiapó, northern Chile has started operations with an design capacity of one tonne per month of lithium carbonate equivalent as concentrated eluate.

The company completed its first production cycle of eluate over the past week. Cleantech also reported on Wednesday that batches will be shipped out to North America for conversion into battery-grade lithium carbonate. The company acquired the brine for conversion from its Laguna Verde project, which is approximately 250 kilometers from the pilot plant.

Prices for lithium carbonate have decreased by 80 per cent compared to 2022 levels, coinciding with CleanTech’s production milestone. However, since the start of March, prices have experienced a slight increase, reaching 115,500 yuan (USD$16,043) per tonne on Thursday, marking the highest level since December, as reported by Trading Economics.

Analysts have recently evaluated that lithium prices have reached their lowest point and anticipate a rebound by July.

“This pilot plant aims to produce significant quantities of battery-grade product for evaluation by potential strategic partners, making CTL one of the few companies in the sector to produce pilot-scale volumes of battery-grade product,” CleanTech CEO Aldo Boitano said.

“The pilot plant positions CTL as a leader in the sector and in Chile, with the first eluate production representing a significant milestone for the company.”

CleanTech will also use its pilot plant for process optimization and product verification, generating substantial data for a pre-feasibility study currently underway for the project.

Read more: Lithium South Development updates leadership roster, appoints new director

Read more: Lithium South Development Increases Lithium Resource by 175% and begins well-drilling program at Argentina’s Hombre Muerto North

The price drop has produced mixed industry reactions

The price drop has prompted some miners to reduce production and cut costs. Core Lithium (ASX: CXO) suspended operations at its Finniss mine in Australia in January and substantially wrote down the value of its assets, coinciding with the company undergoing a management shakeup.

In the same month, Sayona Mining (ASX: SYA) (OTCQB: SYAXF) initiated a cost review of its North American Lithium operation in Quebec and laid off 14 staff members.

However, opinions are divided on the approach to the price drop.

For example, Lithium South Development Corporation (TSXV: LIS) (OTCQB: LISMF) (Frankfurt: OGPQ) produced a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) for its Hombre Muerto North Lithium Project (HMN Lithium Project) in Argentina that was optimistic about the future for the lithium market.

Based on current published market analysis and benchmarking against price assumptions in multiple technical reports from similar brine lithium projects, the study assumed a lithium price of USD$20,000/tonne (t) for a production start-up in 2029. Additionally, the benchmarking exercise generated a long-term price range of between USD$20,000 and USD$25,000/t, averaging USD$22,400/t over seven projects.

Furthermore, Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM) (NYSE: SQM) has decided to lean in on the supply glut by continuing with lithium production for when the prices rebound.

Expanding in Chile, the company has increased its lithium carbonate capacity to 210,000 metric tonnes, with annual company-wide production expected to reach 220,000 to 230,000 tons. SQM expects stable prices in the short term and holds a more positive outlook afterward.


Lithium South Development Corporation is a sponsor of Mugglehead News Coverage


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