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Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024
Mugglehead Magazine
Alternative investment news based in Vancouver, B.C.


Eramet SA’s new plant could be a game-changer for lithium extraction in Argentina

The joint venture between Tsingshan and Eramet is anticipated to use direct lithium extraction at commercial scale

Eramet SA's new plant could be a game-changer for lithium extraction in Argentina
The Centenario Project in Argentina. Image via Eramet.

French battery metal miner Eramet SA has become the first European company to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate at scale.

The company said on Wednesday that it intends on starting production at its USD$870 million Centenario lithium plant in Argentina in November, increasing its production numbers to 24,000 metric tons of lithium by mid-2025.

The plant is a joint venture between the Chinese steel giant Tsingshan and Eramet, and is anticipated to be one of the first to use direct lithium extraction (DLE) at commercial scale.

The joint venture will draw from the Centenario-Ratones deposit, which is one of the most attractive salars in Argentina. Eramet holds extraction rights through a single concession of 560 km², granting the company perpetual mining rights.

The deposit contains more than 15 Mt-LCE3 of drainable mineral resources, with an average lithium concentration of 407 mg/L in the brine, supporting further capacity expansion.

Additionally, Eramet is beginning the commissioning of a highly automated processing plant.

This milestone is a key success in the project’s execution, especially considering the very challenging environment. The project faces altitude and extreme weather conditions, as well as logistical challenges in bringing large pieces of equipment and material on-site.

Furthermore, there is a lack of pre-existing infrastructure, and up to 1,600 people are working on-site simultaneously, all while applying the highest health and safety standards. The project also involves importing equipment from more than 10 countries, with the international supply chain disrupted by the Covid crisis.

Read more: Lithium South explores alternative production methods at Hombre Muerto North

Read more: Lithium South completes pumping test in Alba Sabrina Tenement

Centenario Phase 1 uses one of the most advanced DLE technologies

Argentina is located in South America’s “lithium triangle.” It’s the world’s fourth-largest producer of the metal and aims to increase output with several new projects set to come online later this year.

Eramet’s Centenario project, in northern Salta province, is set to be the first to start production. The company is currently testing the equipment and production processes in a key phase known as commissioning.

Eramet, which owns 50.1 per cent of the project, is requesting permits for a second plant with a capacity of 30,000 tons, with construction likely to begin next year. The company plans to eventually build a third plant of the same size.

Additionally, Eramet hopes that a recent economic reform bill passed in Argentina’s Senate, which includes plans to incentivize large investments, will boost the company’s expansion plans.

The Centenario Phase 1 plant uses one of the most advanced DLE technologies.

Tested for five years under real-life conditions in a pilot plant built on the Centenario site, it has achieved a high recovery rate of lithium contained in the brine, approximately 90 per cent. In comparison, using the traditional natural evaporation process in Centenario would result in a recovery rate of 40 to 50 per cent.

As a result, the DLE technology developed by Eramet is 50 per cent more efficient than the conventional natural evaporation method. It also reduces the production lead time to one week compared to the 12 to 18-month period required for the conventional evaporation method. Developed in France by Eramet Ideas, the Group’s R&D and Open Innovation center, this technology is covered by 12 patents.

Read more: Lithium South and POSCO Holdings ink mutual development agreement

Read more: Lithium South Development expands production goals, updates PEA on Hombre Muerto lithium project

DLE is efficient and environmentally friendly

Direct Lithium Extraction technology provides more efficient and environmentally friendly methods for extracting lithium from brine sources. Eramet’s Centenario project in Argentina is only one example.

This technology significantly reduces production lead time compared to traditional evaporation methods and is covered by 12 patents developed by Eramet Ideas, the Group’s R&D and Open Innovation center.

Similarly, companies like Standard Lithium (TSXV: SLL) (OTCQX: STLHF) (FRA: S5L) are making strides in DLE technology.

Standard Lithium’s Lanxess project in Arkansas, USA, employs DLE technology to extract lithium from brine with high efficiency, aiming to set new standards in sustainability and speed in the lithium production process.

Lithium South Development Corporation (TSXV: LIS) (OTCQB: LISMF) (Frankfurt: OGPQ) is another key player exploring the potential of DLE technology.

Its Hombre Muerto North (HMN) Lithium Project in Argentina is located in the heart of the lithium triangle, adjacent to significant lithium developments by POSCO Holdings (NYSE: PKX) and Arcadium Lithium‘s (NYSE: ALTM) (ASX: LTM) Sal de Vida Project.

Lithium South is evaluating both conventional evaporation and DLE methods to optimize lithium recovery from their brine resources. By exploring DLE, Lithium South aims to enhance the efficiency and environmental footprint of its lithium production, positioning itself as a forward-thinking leader in the rapidly evolving lithium market.


Lithium South Development Corporation is a sponsor of Mugglehead news coverage


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