Calix and Pilbara Minerals team up to explore a new and more sustainable lithium refining process

Making better batteries

Andrew Okely \ July 28, 2021

Pilbara Minerals has signed a memorandum of understanding with Calix to jointly undertake a scoping study to evaluate a new refining process for lithium.

Under a new memorandum of understanding, Calix and Pilbara Minerals will undertake a scoping study to assess a new refining process using Calix Technology, which will be used to create a concentrated lithium salt midstream product for lithium batteries.

Pilbara Minerals owns the Pilgangoora deposit, one of the world’s largest lithium resources. Currently, the ore is processed to produce a spodumene concentrate which is then shipped to customers overseas for use in lithium battery material production.

The scoping study will investigate taking fine, lower grade spodumene concentrate and further processing it on site using renewable energy to create a low carbon, concentrated lithium salt.

The Calix Technology solution involves heating fine spodumene concentrate in an externally heated kiln for a very short time. This facilitates the phase change in the spodumene mineral from Alpha to Beta without the associated melting observed in traditional rotary kilns when treating fine concentrates.

The study is expected to run until late 2021 and, if successful, Pilbara and Calix will form a joint venture to build a demonstration facility at the Pilgangoora spodumene mine in Western Australia, with the vision to produce a higher value lithium salt, while reducing carbon emissions.

Pilbara is expecting the facility to be capable of up to approximately 2400 tpa of lithium salt production capacity.

 

Calix Technology can help improve the sustainability of exisiting industrial processes through a more optimised use of mineral and chemical resources, and the use of renewable sources of energy.

The potential benefits of the Pilbara project:

* A higher value product is produced on site.

* More waste/tails are kept on site by shipping a higher lithium concentrate intermediate to refiners.

* A higher recovery is obtained from the ore body.

* By using an electric calciner, Pilbara can reduce its CO2 footprint and deliver Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) advantages.

* The higher value intermediate will be suitable to ship directly to Europe.

Find out more: www.calix.global/sustainable-processing

Pilbara Minerals’ wholly owned Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum Project, located in Western Australia, is recognised as a globally important source of spodumene.

Spodumene is a lithium mineral derived from pegmatite rock. Known for its high lithium content, spodumene is the most widely exploited mineral source of lithium.

In addition to its high concentration of lithium, lithium extraction from spodumene also typically offers lower capital costs and a shorter time from discovery to production in comparison to brine operations.

Ken Brinsden
Pilbara Minerals’ Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, said

“Calix and Pilbara Minerals have conducted calcination trials of Pilgangoora spodumene in its electrically fired BATMn reactor, at Calix’s Bacchus Marsh facility, and it successfully demonstrated high conversion rates, zero dust emissions and avoided any partial melting concerns.

With these promising results, we will now move to a scoping study phase to investigate installing a calciner and downstream demonstration processing plant at Pilgangoora to allow the processing of fine, low grade ore to produce lithium salt material for export overseas.”

Phil Hodgson
Calix CEO and Managing Director, said

“This proof-of-concept work demonstrated that Calix Technology was able to achieve over 95% conversion of the spodumene ore to an extractable lithium, which is comparable to the conventional rotary kiln process, with fine, and lower grade material. Additionally, we carried out these runs on our BATMn* Technology, providing additional proof-of-concept for the technology to be run off renewable electricity, such as a solar and/or wind farm.

We look forward to working with Pilbara Minerals on this exciting project for the hard-rock lithium industry, and also other mining and processing companies in other minerals to improve their industrial processes, reduce costs and increase their sustainability.”

* BATMn is Calix’s first all-electric reactor, built at our Bacchus Marsh facility in Victoria Australia, for the development of our advanced battery materials.

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