After a seven-month design and construction, lithium mine developer British Lithium has manufactured the first lithium carbonate from mica in granite at its new pilot facility near Roche, Cornwall.
The company said late on January 4 that it will begin producing 5kg/day of lithium carbonate in early 2022, which would be sufficient to demonstrate commercial value to consumers.
Moreover, it stated that this was the first time commercially manufactured lithium from mica, with the pilot plant is employing its patented Li-Sep technology to extract battery-grade lithium from micaceous granite in a chemical-free and low-energy production process.
“New processes are normally piloted during the definitive feasibility stage but, as lithium has never been produced commercially from mica before, de-risking our proprietary technology is an important step in developing our project,” British Lithium CEO Andrew Smith said.
He noted that executing it at this level allowed the company to operate in real-world conditions, utilizing site water and commercial reagents supplied locally.
“There’s still a long road ahead in terms of refining and optimizing the process,” Smith said.
Once the method is fully developed, British Lithium intends to build a full-scale factory. Chairman Roderick Smith stated that the business hoped to produce 21,000 mt/year of battery-grade lithium carbonate after ramping up operations over the following year, two or three years.
S&P Global Platts’ daily seaborne lithium carbonate prices increased by 440 percent year on year to close at $34,300/mt CIF North Asia on January 5.
“At the moment, we will be the only lithium producer in the world to be quarrying and refining on one site, which adds to the sustainability of the project,” Smith said.
The Innovate UK-funded pilot plant includes all processing stages from quarrying to high purity lithium carbonate synthesis, including electric calcination at low temperatures, acid-free leaching, and numerous purification procedures.
British Lithium received a GBP500,000 ($655,635 at the time) Innovate UK Smart Grant from the UK government in August 2020 to further its lithium mine project in the St. Austell district of Cornwall, where it has identified an ore deposit of more than 100 million mt in a former china clay mine.
It also awarded GBP2.9 million in financing from the government’s Sustainable Innovation Fund in March 2021 to construct the pilot plant for its Li-Sep technology, which extracts battery-grade lithium from micaceous granite.
British Lithium is one of the UK’s only two lithium mine projects. Cornish Lithium hopes to begin production within three to five years and produce at least 10,000 mt/year of lithium carbonate equivalent.