Lithium Americas Corp. has reported the results of a definitive feasibility study (DFS) for production of 40,000 metric tons per year (mt/y) of lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) from lithium brine processing at the Caucharí-Olaroz lithium project currently under construction in Jujuy province, northwest Argentina. Caucharí-Olaroz is 100% owned by Minera Exar S.A., which is a 50/50 joint venture between Lithium Americas and Ganfeng Lithium. Lithium Americas and Ganfeng have authorized Exar to continue with development of the project to produce 40,000 mt/y of battery-quality Li2CO3 as outlined in the DFS.
An update to the “Environmental Impacts Report for Exploitation” for Caucharí-Olaroz was approved by Jujuy province in 2017, providing all necessary permits to support 25,000 mt/y of Li2CO3 production. In accordance with provincial requirements, an update was submitted in August and is currently being evaluated by the province to expand the production capacity to 40,000 mt/y. This update includes supplementary environmental studies and information collected during the previous two years as well as changes to the project description to reflect the current development plan and increased production capacity.
The DFS describes a project producing 40,000 mt/y of battery-quality Li2CO3 over a period of 40 years. Construction capital costs are estimated at $565 million. More than $200 million in capital is already committed to contracts and purchase orders.
Operating costs are estimated at $3,576/mt.
First production is targeted for early 2021.
The DFS includes conventional, commercially proven brine processing technology to produce battery-quality Li2CO3 that can be used to meet the specifications of battery material producers in manufacturing cathode and electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries. The process follows industry standards: pumping brine from the salar (salt lake), concentrating the brine through evaporation ponds, and bringing the brine concentrate through an extractive hydrometallurgical and purification process to produce battery-quality Li2CO3.
The project is well serviced by nearby infrastructure, including major paved highways that connect to the port of Antofagasta in Chile, a high-voltage transmission line, an adjacent 300-megawatt (MW) solar project, and a gas pipeline.
Lithium America President and CEO Jon Evans said, “With construction under way and funding in place, the results of the 40,000-mt/y DFS further support Caucharí-Olaroz as a scalable, high-purity source of lithium carbonate for battery material customers. We are thankful for the hard work from the team at Minera Exar, the support from the government of Jujuy, and our 50:50 joint-venture partner, Ganfeng Lithium, for their financial and technical contributions toward optimizing the process design and securing key equipment for the lithium carbonate plant.”