As demand grows for batteries to power eco-friendly vehicles, an Australia-based lithium company is looking at setting up shop in Sudbury.
Lepidico, with a head office in Perth, is planning to launch a plant in the Nickel City that will extract lithium concentrate from hard-rock deposits, using a unique process it touts as more efficient than existing methods.
The company says its system can “achieve high lithium recovery,” while also offsetting production costs and eliminating tailings or effluent by refining a variety of useful byproducts. “We’re doing the full feasibility study now and if it proves viable, it means we would have a chemical plant that effectively has no waste coming out of it,” said Joe Walsh, managing director of Lepidico.
The company has already secured an Australia patent for its L-Max technology, with other patent applications pending in Europe, the U.S. and Japan. “There are other processes out there but they tend to employ roasting technology, which is power-intensive and not the greenest,” said Walsh.
The Lepidico method requires less energy and land for the production of lithium, he said, and can also yield fertilizers and soil-enhancers for agricultural use and land reclamation. Sudbury may not have a handy reserve of lithium itself, but it does have an abundant supply of the compound required to process it.
“That’s the big reason we chose Sudbury,” said Walsh. “Sulfuric acid is the main chemical we use in the plant and you have two large producers there, in Glencore and Vale, who collectively produce a million tonnes per year.”
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