The lithium processing company said its 100%-owned LieNA process is designed "to overcome the shortfalls inherent in conventional 'conversion' processes that recover lithium from spodumene".
The process replaces thermal conversion of spodumene with conversion at a lower temperature using caustic soda. Once converted, the lithium is selectively leached and recovered as tri-lithium phosphate.
According to Lithium Australia, LieNA can offer advantages over conventional spodumene conversion, including improved resource utilisation, due to its ability to process fine spodumene concentrates; the ability to regenerate reagents used in the process; lower energy consumption; a smaller environmental footprint; and removal of the requirement for sodium sulphate production.
Lithium Australia recently completed preliminary R&D on the process at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), supported by a conceptual engineering assessment on the applicability of the LieNA flowsheet to spodumene feed material. The outcomes of this indicated that further development of the process was warranted.
During the next stage of R&D, already commenced at ANSTO, final product synthesis, refining and the recycling of reagents will be examined.
The aim of this work effort, which is scheduled to continue throughout 2019, is to confirm sufficient technical criteria to commit to a pilot plant programme.
"The application of LieNA to the production of lithium chemicals from spodumene and petalite concentrates removes some of the constraints inherent in conventional lithium refining. LieNA has the potential to provide a flexible, environmentally conscious and commercially competitive option for the treatment of spodumene concentrates," said Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin