General Motors just announced that it will invest $650 million in Lithium Americas (TSX:LAC) (NYSE:LAC) to secure access to lithium, a critical component of electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The two companies said it is the largest expenditure a carmaker has ever made to procure raw materials for batteries. When the lithium from the Thacker Pass project is recovered and processed, it will be enough for GM to produce up to one million EVs each year. Thacker is expected to be the largest lithium mine in the United States once it begins production in 2026, and it will assist immensely in filling the requirement for North America-sourced lithium. The United States and Canada are working to wean themselves off their reliance on Chinese-controlled lithium through their separate critical minerals policies. In Canada, E3 Lithium (TSXV:ETL) (OTXQC:EEMMF) has a strong land position in the business-friendly province of Alberta. American Lithium Corp. (TSXV:LI) (NASDAQ:AMLI), Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) and Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA (NYSE:SQM) are other key players in the lithium market with projects in the U.S. and South America.
Alberta’s leading lithium developer and extraction technology innovator E3 Lithium (TSXV:ETL) (OTXQC:EEMMF) has continued to achieve important milestones in both developing its 24.3 million tonnes of inferred lithium resources in Alberta and scaling its proprietary Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) ion-exchange technology, which efficiently extracts lithium ions from brine for further processing into battery-grade lithium products.
After making significant progress in 2022, including completing the bulk of the design of its field pilot project to demonstrate its DLE technology and completing the first production of commercial-scale sorbent, E3 Lithium reached a monumental turning point. On February 2, the company revealed that its Lithium Ion-Exchange (Li-IX) pilot plant in the Clearwater Project Area is now on track for construction and operation in 2023.
The pilot plant will put Li-IX technology to the test for direct lithium extraction in real-world operational conditions on a wider scale. At the pilot size, demonstrating Li-IX technology reduces risk significantly and is a crucialstep toward realizing the full value of E3 Lithium‘s 24.3 million tonnes of inferred lithium deposits.
“The pilot plant is a major milestone for the company, and we are extremely excited about the progress we’ve made towards constructing and operating it this year,” said Chris Doornbos, E3 Lithium President and CEO. “Demonstrating the Li-IX extraction technology in the field advances the company significantly towards delivering battery grade lithium to market; it’s the paradigm shift needed for E3 to move towards our lithium plant design and eventual production.”
The pilot plant will be split into two parts. The first component is ancillary equipment used to remove Leduc brine water from the aquifer and perform pre-treatment for the Li-IX extraction process. The ion-exchange medium that manages the extraction of lithium from the Leduc brine and generates the concentrated lithium fluid is housed in the process equipment. As previously announced, E3 has been creating a number of different flow sheets, and the pilot will test a number of lithium extraction systems to select the optimum commercial design.
The company is currently in full swing developing the plant’s detailed engineering, design, and construction plans, with the goal of commissioning equipment to site this summer.
Lithium Miners Invest in the Future
Lithium Americas Corp. (NYSE:LAC) (TSX:LAC) and General Motors Co. will collaborate to develop the Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, which is the largest known deposit of lithium in the US and the world’s third largest. Under the terms of the agreement, GM will make a $650 million equity investment in Lithium Americas, the largest-ever investment by an automaker in the production of battery raw materials. According to Lithium Americas, the lithium collected and processed from the project can allow the production of up to one million EVs each year. Thacker Pass lithium carbonate will be used in GM’s proprietary Ultium battery cells. Lithium is a vital component in lithium-ion batteries because it withstands repeated charging and discharging, has a higher energy density, and has more useful capacity than other battery types.
Last week, global specialty chemicals company Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) announced the formal brand launch of Ketjen, its wholly owned subsidiary that creates specialized, advanced catalyst solutions for the petrochemical, refining, and specialty chemicals sectors. After declaring plans to operate the catalysts business as a subsidiary, Albemarle revealed the new name in November 2022. Ketjen will continue to help customers on their individual energy transition journeys, from fluidized catalytic cracking to clean fuels to hydro-processing to organometallics and curatives, as a distinct brand. Ketjen will lead the market in safe and dependable innovative catalyst solutions through strong industry engagement and long-term partnerships with large enterprises.
American Lithium Corp. (TSXV:LI) (NASDAQ:AMLI) announced January 24 that it has entered into an agreement with an arm’s-length party to buy back the remaining 1% gross overriding royalty on the Company’s wholly owned TLC Lithium Project in the Esmerelda lithium district northwest of Tonopah, Nevada. American Lithium will issue 950,000 common shares in the capital of the Company to Nevada Alaska Mining Co. Inc. under the terms of the Agreement. In line with applicable securities laws, the Shares will be subject to a four-month and one-day statutory hold period. The acquisition of the Royalty and issue of the Shares are still subject to TSX Venture Exchange approval.
Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA (NYSE:SQM), the world’s second largest lithium producer, reported a tenfold increase in third-quarter net profit, driven by rising prices and record high sales of the metal, which is a vital component in rechargeable batteries.
For the three months ending September, the miner earned $1.1 billion in net profit. Quarterly revenue increased more than fourfold year on year to $2.95 billion, with lithium revenues increasing more than twelvefold. SQM revealed in its results report that sales volumes for lithium and derivatives exceeded 41,000 tonnes, the biggest quarterly volume ever reported by the business. According to the company, average lithium prices reached a new high of more than $56,000 per tonne during the third quarter. SQM predicts that worldwide lithium consumption will increase by at least 40% this year due to rising electric car sales in China, where sales are expected to top 6.5 million units, more than doubling last year’s figure.
Chris Doornbos, President and CEO of E3 Lithium, is hosting a webinar on February 2 for a look ahead to 2023.
Featured Image @ Depositphotos
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