Zinnwald Lithium plc, the German focused lithium development company, has confirmed that production of battery grade lithium hydroxide (“LiOH”) from Zinnwaldite concentrate is technically and economically viable at its Zinnwald Lithium Project in Germany, having completed a pilot scale test work programme. The test work also confirms the potential to produce economically significant amounts of commercially saleable co-products, such as high-purity potassium sulphate (“SOP”) and precipitated calcium carbonate (“PCC”).
Pivoting the Project to focus on battery-grade lithium hydroxide as a primary product to better align with the requirements of European off-taker. Economic, technical, and commercial analysis of test work undertaken indicates that annual lithium hydroxide production above 10,000 tons could be viable from the core Zinnwald Project.
Anton du Plessis, CEO of Zinnwald Lithium, commented: “I am delighted that we have completed the pilot scale test work necessary to demonstrate that the Zinnwald Lithium Project is capable of economically producing meaningful quantities of Lithium Hydroxide. This is consistent with our strategy of pivoting the Project to focus on the production of mainstream lithium products that is in increasingly high demand by the European EV and battery sectors. Notably, the ability of the Project to deliver domestic European supply of important co-products such as potassium sulphate further strengthens our investment case, while equally importantly, the test work indicates that the process does not generate environmentally harmful side products.”
As previously announced, following an analysis of market trends in battery chemistry and end-user demand, the Company has refocused the Project on battery-grade lithium hydroxide as a primary product to better align with the requirements of European off-takers.
Accordingly, test work, conducted in Germany by a leading industry specialist, K-UTEC AG Salt Technologies (‘K-UTEC’), and verified by a third-party laboratory through chemical and physical analysis, processed Zinnwaldite concentrate into high purity (above 99.9% purity) Lithium Hydroxide Monohydrate (‘LHM’) and high purity SOP. Furthermore, economic, technical, and commercial analysis performed indicates that annual lithium hydroxide production above 10,000 tons could be viable from the core Zinnwald license. As noted in the Company’s recent Chairman’s Statement, one of its core plans for 2022 is to undertake drilling on its satellite license areas with the goal of expanding the potential size of the Project as a whole.
Lithium recovery from the Zinnwaldite concentrate to the lithium product was proven to be above 80% and comparable to lithium processes from other types of lithium resources. Non-saleable side streams were proven to contain very low amounts of soluble, possibly environmentally problematic elements.
In the test programme, calcined Zinnwaldite concentrate was converted into battery grade LHM in a pilot plant scale test with almost 50kg of battery grade LHM produced out of several tons of Zinnwaldite concentrate. The level of impurities in the battery grade lithium salt were in line with, or below, similar battery grade lithium products available on the market.
The process flow sheet, developed by in-house experts and K-UTEC, is based on traditional, proven industrial processing technology. In the first stage, Zinnwaldite concentrate is calcinated. The lithium in the calcine is in water-soluble form and is converted in a solid-state reaction without the use of acid. After water leaching, the lithium-containing solution is purified, and after an intermediate step, converted into lithium hydroxide.
In addition to battery-grade LHM, commercially significant amounts of high-quality by-products, SOP and PCC, can be produced.
The results from the successful tests will be applied in basic engineering and will be utilised in an updated feasibility study.