Lithium has become a battleground as electric vehicle (EV) makers look to secure new supply. General Motors just announced a $650 million investment in Lithium Americas to develop the Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, which should provide the automaker with enough lithium supply to support production of up to 1 million EVs per year.
GM isn’t the only automaker looking to secure lithium supplies. Last summer, Ford Motor Co announced a series of deals including Chinese battery maker CATL and mining giant Rio Tinto to accelerate its shift to EVs and plans to produce 600,000 EVs annually by 2023 and over two million by 2027.
Tesla has become more involved with the raw material supply chain for EV batteries, signing supply contracts with the world’s largest producer of battery-grade lithium, and Australia’s Liontown Resources. The EV giant is also signing contracts for offtake agreements with mining companies developing new projects. The company initially signed a supply deal with Piedmont Lithium, which is developing several lithium properties in North America, to buy roughly one-third of the planned 160,000 tonnes of annual spodumene lithium production from its North Carolina mine for a minimum of five years.
However, after delivery delays, the companies amended the agreement to purchase lithium from Piedmont’s North American Lithium in Quebec, which is expected to restart output in H2 2023. The 3-year binding agreement will include 125,000 metric tons of spodumene concentrate (SC6), a high-purity lithium ore with a lithium content of roughly 6%.
Still, more mining projects are needed. According to Benchmark Minerals Intelligence, these large investments planned by major lithium producers won’t be sufficient to meet EV production goals and new mines are needed.
In fact, billionaire mining financier Robert Friedland recently explained that a 1,000-pound EV requires 500,000 pounds of raw materials, meaning “to transition just the world’s passenger cars to electric, we have to mine more materials in the next 30 years than we mined throughout human history.”
Fortunately, there are several lithium projects being developed across North America, including one of the world’s largest recorded inferred lithium resources which is located in business-friendly Alberta, Canada.
E3 Lithium (TSXV:ETL) (OTXQC:EEMMF) has one of the largest inferred lithium resources in the world with 24.3 million tonnes (Mt) of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE). The company’s Clearwater Project is hosted in the world-class Leduc Aquifer. According to E3’s Preliminary Economic Assessment, the Clearwater Lithium Project has an NPV 8% of $1.1 Billion USD with a 32% IRR pre-tax and $820 Million with a 27% IRR after-tax.
Apart from its globally-significant lithium resource, E3 Lithium has developed a proprietary Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) Ion-Extraction Technology to extract lithium from brine to create a high-purity concentrate solution used in Li-ion batteries.
E3 Lithium Achieves Major Milestone for Pilot Plant
On February 2, E3 Lithium made a significant announcement that will propel the company further along the pathway to commercialization.
The company revealed that it’s on track to begin construction and operation of its Lithium Ion-Exchange (Li-IX) pilot plant in the Clearwater Project Area in Q3 2023 after making significant progress with the project last year, including completing the bulk of the word to design the pilot project to demonstrate its DLE technology and completing the first production of commercial-scale sorbent.
The pilot plant, which will put Li-IX technology to the test on a larger scale for direct lithium extraction in real-world operating conditions, is a crucial step in unlocking the value of E3 Lithium‘s world-class 24.3 million tonnes of inferred lithium resource. At the pilot scale, demonstrating Li-IX technology significantly de-risks the commercial design.
E3 Lithium’s pilot plant will consist of two main parts. The first part will move the Leduc brine water from the aquifer and perform pre-treatment for the Li-IX extraction process. The second part will house the ion-exchange medium to manage the extraction of the lithium from the brine and generate the concentrated lithium fluid.
The company is in full swing developing the detailed engineering, design, and construction plans for the plant, with the goal of commissioning equipment to site this summer.
Featured Image @ Depositphotos
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