The work in Sadisdorf, Germany, is using a proprietary technology from Lithium Australia called SiLeach to make cathodes for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs).
The process recovers lithium from mining waste without a heating process, generating tri-lithium phosphate (Li3PO4) that can be used for the direct production of cathode powders, especially for lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cells without having to produce high-purity lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate.
The first demonstration uses lithium micas recovered from mine waste in the Kalgoorlie region of Australia, which is used by recently acquired subsidiary VSPC to produce the cathode material and coin cells (above). These cells were tested under a range of charge and discharge conditions, achieving equivalent performance to VSPC’s cathode powders based on lithium carbonate.
The material is similar to that mined at Sadisdorf in Saxony, opening up a European source of lithium cathodes for batteries.
“We are in the backyard of the most rapidly expanding consumption of lithium outside China, with most European vehicle manufacturers announcing their plans to go electric,” said Adrian Griffin, managing director of Lithium Australia.”
Sadisdorf is processing lithium from tin ores that are simlar to those of the nearby Cinovec deposit in the Czech Republic and it is not far from the Zinnwald deposit mined by Deutsche Lithium. “All of these deposits have similar characteristics, making them difficult, if not impossible, to commercialise using conventional lithium processing technology,” said Griffin.
The ability to bypass lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide as battery precursors provides potential to significantly reduce the cost of making batteries and boosts the sustainability of global lithium supplies.
“The remarkable outcome is a credit to our development team,” said Griffin. “The most notable aspect of this achievement is its simplicity, and ability to streamline the processes and cost required to produce LIB cathode materials. The broader application to lithium brine exploitation provides enormous potential for that part of the lithium industry, by removing the cost intensive route to lithium hydroxide – the direct use of lithium phosphate to produce cathode powders may do that.”
“Our previous testing demonstrates that SiLeach can unlock the potential of Sadisdorf as a true polymetallic operation, recovering lithium from the residues of conventional tin concentration processes,” he said. “The size of the Sadisdorf resource is already significant, with the potential to feed a 25,000 tonnes per annum lithium carbonate plant for 10 years. Further exploration is likely to expand the resource significantly. “