Compass Minerals International Inc said on Wednesday it will use a lithium extraction technology developed by EnergySource Minerals LLC to produce the electric vehicle battery metal for Ford Motor Co and others.
Washington has been pressing for US companies to find greener ways to boost domestic production of battery metals and lessen the country’s reliance on China.
Compass chose EnergySource’s direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology over four rivals and plans to use it alongside existing evaporation ponds to remove the battery metal from Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
Compass said it spent more than two years studying EnergySource’s technology and is confident it can begin producing 10,000 tonnes of lithium annually by 2025.
“This is the right technology for this resource,” Compass executive Ryan Bartlett told Reuters.
Compass also on Wednesday said it would sell shares worth $252 million to Koch Industries Inc and use proceeds to fund its lithium project. Compass has lithium supply deals with Ford and LG Energy Solution Ltd.
The partnership is the first technology license by privately held EnergySource, which counts oilfield giant Schlumberger NV and mining investment firm TechMet as investors. EnergySource technology relies on an adsorbent that separates lithium from impurities in brine.
EnergySource is developing its own DLE project in California’s Salton Sea, but warned in June that a recently enacted state lithium tax could force it to invest elsewhere.
Eric Spomer, EnergySource’s chief executive, said the Compass partnership was not linked to the California tax, but added: “There are a lot of brine resources in North America.”
Elsewhere, several DLE partnerships have recently soured. Lake Resources NL plans to seek arbitration to settle a dispute with Bill Gates-backed Lilac Solutions Inc.
And officials in Bolivia, which holds the world’s largest lithium resource, parted ways with EnergyX.
(By Ernest Scheyder; Editing by David Gregorio)