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New process taps into lithium-bearing micas

By Mary Page Bailey |

The increased demand for lithium in recent years — driven mainly by battery manufacturing — has broadened the scope of lithium-processing technologies. Typically, lithium is mined from spodumene ore or sourced from brine deposits, but a new process enables lithium’s recovery from mica minerals — a typically overlooked raw material. Lepidico (Perth, Western Australia; www.lepidico.com) is currently in the process of scaling up its L-Max technology (see diagram) for processing lithium-bearing micas and phosphate minerals. What sets L-Max apart, according to Joe Walsh, Lepidico’s managing director, is its proprietary impurity-removal steps, which result in several salable byproducts and very little waste. “A number of those impurity removal stages, for instance, the removal of potassium, result in a byproduct. We’ve tried to add as much value as we can by producing salable materials as we step through the process,” says Walsh. L-Max begins with a relatively conventional sulfuric-acid leach followed by crystallization and subsequent filtration and purification steps, finally resulting in the precipitation of lithium carbonate. Walsh points out that the process is particularly adept at handling potentially problematic impurities,…
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