Lithium-bearing spodumene from Strickland Quarry in Portland, CT. (Source: Woodstockreveries.com)
Today, MGX Minerals Inc. entered into a partnership with US-based Orion Laboratories LLC and Light Metals International Inc. to jointly develop and commercialize a new method of extracting lithium compounds from spodumene (hard rock) material and/or concentrate.
While the company is about to commercially deploy its petrolithium technology for the rapid lithium extraction from brine, today´s announcement shows that, once again, MGX has become the go-to-choice for some of the world´s most respected engineers with successfully tested greentech solutions to be taken to the next level by MGX, potentially superseding problematic conventional methods and disrupting an entire industry for the better.
LMI has developed a fundamentally different method to rapidly produce lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) and/or lithium hydroxide (LiOH) from a variety of spodumene-rich (LiAlSi2O6) concentrates. Unique features of the technology include:
Only 3 feedstock materials are required:
(1) a spodumene concentrate, to produce high-purity Li2CO3 and/or high-purity LiOH;
(2) high-purity CO2, which is consumed in forming Li2CO3; and
(3) high-purity H2O, which is consumed in forming LiOH.
Processing creates 3 potentially saleable products, all of high-purity:
(1) lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) and/or lithium hydroxide (LiOH);
(2) aluminum hydroxide (Al(OH)3), and
(3) amorphous silica (SiO2).
Eliminates use of conventional sulfuric acid leaching. Conventional hard rock processing is expensive (CAPEX and OPEX) and not really environmentally friendly as a lot of chemicals are needed to break the aluminium-silicon-bond in order to thereafter extract the lithium. So if you want to extract the lithium from spodumene (LiAlSi2O6), you need to get rid of the Al and Si, whereas both elements are known to not easily break. Conventional processing uses expensive solvents like sulphuric acid in an energy intensive proccess to break that Al-Si bond, whereafter both elements are treated as waste material. LMI can break this bond inexpensively, with a low energy process, by using few and readily available solvents: Carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) to produce carbonate and hydroxide products as well as silica. LMI´s technology promises to use Al and Si as revenue streams besides the lithium, producing less waste and using just few and cheap solvents which can get recycled internally. This makes the whole process less expensive and more environmentally friendly.
Modular capabilities allow for scalable and remote deployment. What is making this new technology so compelling is the ability to be modular and highly scalable, thereby enabling a small “factory footprint,” and holds the potential to decrease overall hard-rock lithium production costs. Modular systems that can be scaled up also translate into much lower CAPEX (upfront capital expenditures) than for the industry-standard sulphuric acid-based process. This may enable smaller deposits to be put into production so that they can get started, while investors do not need to put upfront lots of money. The advantage of hard rock would be that deposits are more readily accessible in North America and globally. There exist many small hard rock lithium deposits in Quebec and many other Canadian provinces, as well as in several US states like North Carolina. The "problem" with most of those hard rock deposits is size as a deposit must have a large enough resource in order to legitimate an expensive processing plant to produce lithium carbonate or hydroxide.
This looks like a simple method for which reason scalability should not be an issue. The simpler a technology is at lab scale the less complications are expected at bench and commercial scale. The fewer moving parts you have, the better, because eventually moving parts break and need to be replaced. So the simpler a technology is, the better it is suitable for scaling up commercially.
The LMI technology is environmentally benign because (1) energy consumption is modest, (2) CO2 emissions are low (zero if hydroelectric power is the sole source of energy), (3) no solid or liquid waste materials are formed, and (4) the lithium leaching agent is regenerated and reused in a closed-loop cycle.
Production costs of hard rock lithium deposits are known to be higher than for brines. Conventional hard rock processing requires a lot of chemicals, which make the whole process quite expensive and inflexible. In order to get the industry´s attention with a new hard rock lithium extraction technology, production costs must be reduced by at least 30-50% when compared to conventional hard rock processing, which, on the other hand, could flip the entire lithium industry and make hard rock less expensive than much of today´s brines. This technology could become another game-changer for the lithium industry, with MGX holding the exclusive rights.
This is not just a concept as testing has already been done successfully, otherwise MGX would not get involved. MGX´s joint-venture partner Power Metals Corp. has agreed to provide spodumene samples of mineralized material originating from the Case Lake Lithium Project in Ontario, which will be used to perform initial bench-scale laboratory testing. MGX President and CEO, Jared Lazerson, commented:
"The success of our Case Lake, Ontario joint venture has led us to review new metallurgical methods that have the potential to significantly reduce the costs and equipment required for extraction of the principle spodumene elements lithium, aluminum, and silicon (the latter in the form of silica). We believe Dr. Blencoe has a firm understanding of the thermochemical requirements to achieve such a goal."
Orion Laboratories and LMI are led by Dr. James G. Blencoe, who has more than 40 years of experience designing, constructing, operating and maintaining specialized equipment for advanced chemical production. He is considered a foremost expert on thermophysical properties and phase relations of solids, liquids and gases. Dr. Blencoe has developed numerous techniques for the precise and accurate control and measurement of chemical composition in actively-reacting open and closed systems. Prior to entering the private sector as Founder, President and CEO of Orion Laboratories LLC, he spent 24 years working at the renowned Oak Ridge National Laboratory (a science and technology national laboratory in Tennessee sponsored by the US Department of Energy) and 9 years working at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Blencoe has published more than 50 articles and reports in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals and technical magazines. Blencoe earned a B.S. degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1968, and a Ph.D. degree in Geology from Stanford University in 1974.
Terms of the LOI. MGX has agreed to acquire an initial 50% interest in the technology and associated intellectual property in exchange for an initial cash payment of $250,000 CAD and issuance of 100,000 common shares of the Company. Initial proceeds will be utilized to complete bench-scale laboratory testing of the technology. Upon successful completion of laboratory testing, MGX has agreed to issue and additional 250,000 common shares. Should MGX elect to further proceed, the Company will fund development of a modular pilot plant. Upon successful development and testing of the pilot plant, MGX will have the option to issue an additional 500,000 shares to LMI, at which time a Joint-Venture will be formed with MGX holding a 70% interest and LMI a 30% interest in the JV. MGX will have the option to purchase an undivided 100% interest in the JV at any time for $10 million, of which LMI will have the right to choose a combination of shares and cash as consideration.
MGX Minerals Inc.
#303 - 1080 Howe Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6C 2T1
Phone: +1 604 681 7735
Shares Issued & Outstanding: 99,758,991
Canadian Symbol (CSE): XMG
Current Price: $1.35 CAD (03/07/2018)
Market Capitalization: $135 Million CAD
German Symbol / WKN (Tradegate): 1MG / A12E3P
Current Price: €0.84 EUR (03/07/2018)
Market Capitalization: €84 Million EUR
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Disclaimer: This report contains forward-looking information or forward-looking statements (collectively "forward-looking information") within the meaning of applicable securities laws. Forward-looking information is typically identified by words such as: "believe", "expect", "anticipate", "intend", "estimate", "potentially" and similar expressions, or are those, which, by their nature, refer to future events. Rockstone and MGX cautions investors that any forward-looking information provided herein is not a guarantee of future results or performance, and that actual results may differ materially from those in forward-looking information as a result of various factors. The reader is referred to the MGX´s public filings for a more complete discussion of such risk factors and their potential effects which may be accessed through the MGX´s profile on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. Please read the full disclaimer within the full research report as a PDF (here) as fundamental risks and conflicts of interest exist. The author, Stephan Bogner, holds a long position in MGX Minerals Inc. and is being paid a monthly retainer from Zimtu Capital Corp., which company also holds a long position in MGX Minerals Inc.