Preliminary tests from E3 Lithium‘s (TSXV: ETL; US-OTC: EEMMF) direct lithium extraction (DLE) field pilot plant in south-central Alberta have returned initial lithium recoveries of at least 94%, according to results of the first three tests.
The results also show purity of concentrate above 80% and an average lithium grade in concentrate of 884 mg per litre, E3 said in a news release on Friday.
The test work is being done using brine from the company’s own Clearwater project, which is expected to generate 20,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide a year over a 20-year life, according to a 2020 preliminary economic assessment.
“These results demonstrate an initial positive indication that the pilot is operating as expected,” said Chris Doornbos, CEO of E3 Lithium. “The E3 Lithium team is working hard to progress the pilot and is continuing to operate the pilot safely.”
Via the DLE field pilot plant, E3 Lithium is conducting a series of three predefined tests to review various operating conditions to understand anticipated performance in a commercial environment. Once all three tests are complete, the company will select the operating conditions that produced the best results to run for a longer period.
The success of the longer operating period will confirm the results of the initial testing and will enable the commercial design of this system for both the pre-feasibility study (PFS) and subsequent engineering designs, E3 stated.
In addition, the lithium concentrate produced by the longer operating period will be used for the development of the lithium production system for the PFS and later designs, the company added.
Throughout pilot operations, E3 will be testing its technology along with two third-party technologies. A full suite of results from the predefined testing currently underway will be available at the start of the longer operating period.
The test results come just over two weeks after E3 started operations at the plant, which saw its shares rise 8.7% to a two-year high of C$3.78 apiece. They also came almost six weeks after the company started commissioning the plant.
The PEA for Clearwater outlines an after-tax net present value (at 8% discount) of about C$820 million, with an internal rate of return of 27%. E3 currently holds 16 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) in the measured and indicated categories, and 900,000 inferred tonnes of LCE, hosted in the Leduc Aquifer.
Clearwater forms part of this resource area, which has an average lithium concentration of 74 mg per litre.
Shares of E3 Lithium rose 5% to C$4.07 on Friday afternoon in Toronto, which gives the lithium developer a market capitalization of C$277.2 million. Its shares traded in a 52-week range of C$1.74 and C$5.72.