Case Study: Lithium Preconcentration



Featured Mineral

  • Spodumene

Background

This project was sponsored by Namaska Lithium which owns the Whabouchi property in northwestern Quebec, Canada. Wahbouchi is a spodumene-based lithium deposit. Lithium is currently a critical element in the production of batteries for a variety of electronics, electric cars and other forms of energy storage.

Questions

  • Can ore preconcentration be used to improve project economics?
  • Can pilot plant results match the bench-scale results?
  • Can a product of 5.8% LiO2 be generated by dense media separation?

Methods

  • Heavy liquid separation was used for bench-scale separation with specific gravities from 2.65 to
    3.00
  • Sepro’s Condor Dense Media Separator was used for three pilot plant tests
    • Tests were performed using 2 and 3 stages of separation
    • Medium densities ranged from 2.7 to 3.0
    • Procedures were varied to maximize recovery as well as product grade

Results

Bench scale tests showed that 91% of the lithium oxide could be recovered in 37% of the mass at an SG of 2.72

The grade-recovery curve of the pilot plant was within 2-3% of the bench scale tests

34% of the lithium oxide could be turned into a product grading 5.9% LiO2 using only one preconcentration step. This could be further upgraded using magnetic separation.

Based on these results, Nemaska determined that it can process more than two-thirds of its ore by only using dense media separation to obtain high-quality concentrate with grades exceeding 6% Li2O at relatively low cost.

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