Veolia chosen to advance Mexican lithium project
Veolia Water Technologies has engineered and designed a production process that recovers lithium carbonate and sulphate of potash from clay deposits using HPD evaporation and crystallization systems. That is exactly what British firm Bacanora Lithium needed to advance its Sonora project.
To mitigate the risks of the project and confirm that the proposed technical and commercial process is both feasible and scalable, Bacanora relied on Veolia’s deep lithium production expertise to test the process flow sheet developed during the Sonora feasibility study and simulate the unit operations planned for the project, an integrated mine in northern Mexico designed to reach a capacity of 17,500 t/y battery grade lithium carbonate operation in its first phase.
Different from most of the world’s lithium which is produced from hard rock mines in Australia or from brines in South America, the lithium at Sonora is mined from clay – a rare type of deposit with the potential to become one of the world’s largest and lowest cost lithium resources.
As part of this innovative plant, Veolia designed an evaporation circuit with a double crystallization sequence featuring HPD thermal separation technologies to maximize the recovery of potassium sulphate, a specialty fertilizer also known as sulphate of potash (SOP), and sodium sulphate, a valuable salt that is recycled upstream as the reagent in the clay roasting process. The production line is completed by ion exchange purification, solid-liquid centrifugal separation and drying systems to achieve >99.5% battery grade lithium carbonate.
“We are proud to help game-changing miners in search of a partner with the knowhow to produce lithium from a variety of feedstocks. Veolia looks forward to further supporting the transformation of Bacanora into a major supplier of battery-grade lithium chemicals” said Jim Brown, executive VP Veolia Water Technologies Americas.
Veolia’s exhaustive testing program and process design expertise with HPD evaporation and crystallization technologies, validated Bacanora’s product purity requirements while removing potassium and converting a waste stream into a high-value-added fertilizer. Because lithium mining is inherently risky, Veolia partners with developers and producers to improve their environmental performance and optimize their operations to help them extract the most economic value out of the production of high purity lithium chemicals.
(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)