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World’s highest-purity lithium plant announces commercial launch

By Scott Jenkins |

A facility that produces high-purity lithium carbonate for use in the growing market for electrolytes in electric-vehicle batteries has begun commercial operations in Imperial Valley, Calif. The 500-ton/yr plant, operated by Simbol Materials (Pleasanton, Calif.; www.simbolmaterials.com), is the only producer of high-purity Li2CO3 in the U.S., and one of three worldwide. “We can produce the highest-purity Li2CO3, up to 99.999% pure, at prices that are equal to or lower than incumbent producers,” says Simbol Materials co-founder and CEO Luka Erceg. The company plans a three-fold expansion of the facility that will begin in late 2012. In addition to the recently opened facility to upgrade Li2CO3, Simbol is also commercializing innovative technology to extract lithium, manganese and zinc battery materials from geothermal brines in the Salton Sea region of California. “The Salton Sea area is geologically unique,” explains Erceg, “The brine there contains 30% total dissolved solids, including high levels of lithium, zinc and manganese, which we can leverage with our integration to the geothermal power plant.” In Simbol’s process (diagram), a proprietary brine-preparation step involving silica yields…
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