In our March newsletter, we mentioned that SPARC was submitting a grant application in the federal government’s Critical Minerals Development Program. The program is designed to fund projects which increase the supply chain of critical minerals in Australia to further boost the economy in the renewable energy sector. I’m happy to say that SPARC was one of thirteen successful application to receive funding! Fellow awardees are the likes of Evolution Mining, Ecograf (with ANSTO), and IGO Ltd (a refinery partner of Andrew Forrest), which highlights the strength and competitiveness of the program.
Our project involves further development and commercialisation of lithium selective frother additives for spodumene ore processing. Currently, the refining of lithium from spodumene ore is roughly 85% efficient, meaning 15% of the lithium resides in the tailings, along with other valuable minerals. Our technology will improve the extraction efficiency to between 90 and 95%, giving a sizable boost to the lithium supply chain.
The economic benefits of this project are quite massive. Based on last year’s mining figures of 55 kilotonnes of lithium extracted, this technology could extract an extra 6 kilotonnes of lithium residing in the tailings, worth more than USD$400M – in Australia alone! Therefore, this could significantly add to the Australian economy and the lithium supply chain. But there is much more than just an economic benefit to this technology, there is an environmental aspect as well.
Mining and mineral processing generates significant amounts of carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases, into the environment. And while it’s unavoidable, it can be mitigated by improving the efficiencies of the process involved in the extraction. According to estimates, 9 tonnes of CO2 are generated for every tonne of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) refined. Roughly a third of this, 3 tonnes of CO2, is due entirely to the mining and extraction process (here in Australia), not the shipping and reprocessing. So, by improving the extraction efficiency to increase the supply chain, this process would mitigate roughly 17 kilotonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent of removing 3700 cars from the road!
Check out the rest of our June Newsletter below for more on this project, as well as what other work SPARC is looking to develop and how you could make an impact.