Perth, Australia-based Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT) is engaged in the acquisition, extraction, development and processing of lithium deposits.
In 2019, Lithium Australia successfully converted waste rock, sourced from a mine-site located close to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, into a lithium chemical at its SiLeach® Gen-2 pilot plant at the ANSTO Minerals facility in Lucas Heights, New South Wales, marking a milestone for the Company and also a world first. Subsequently, the chemical was transported to the Company’s VSPC Ltd facility (100%-owned) to manufacture a test lithium-ion battery (LIB), which performed well, comparable to those created using battery-grade lithium carbonate.
The Company, in the longer-term, aims to procure a reliable and regular supply of lithium chemicals as global commitments to date, it is estimated that ~3.5 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) will be needed on a yearly basis to power the number of electric vehicles required to meet the legislative requirements in place from 2030. With current global lithium production at 300,000 tonnes of LCE per annum and the demand for the product growing at 15% annually, there is a great market opportunity for the Company.
Evidently, the Company is well advancing its goal of vertical integration as it continues to capitalise on all major sectors of the lithium supply chain. It is strategy summarised in the diagram below-
Source: Annual Report 2019
The Company’s key activities during the Calendar Year 2019 included-
- Disclosure about the survey of lithium pegmatites at Medcalf, part of the Company's Lake Johnston project in Western Australia. The exploration programme, which commenced in January 2019, involved field mapping, rock-chip and geochemical soil sampling. The samples generated during the programme were submitted for laboratory analysis in Perth, Western Australia.
- Completion of a high-resolution aeromagnetic and radiometric survey at Youanmi, WA by Southern Geoscience.
- Commencement of preliminary feasibility study (PFS) at the Sadisdorf lithium/tin deposit in Germany for evaluating the production of cathode powders, specifically lithium iron phosphate (LFP), directly from mica feed, which is usually rendered as a waste material in the process.
- Execution of a letter of intent (LoI) with DLG (DLG Battery Co. Ltd) for establishing a 50:50 jointly owned business for the supply and sale of LIBs manufactured by DLG, its’ packs and modules in Australia.
- Successful production of lithium phosphate from waste materials using SiLeach®. Development of a simple and effective method for removal of impurities from the lithium phosphate in collaboration with ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation), for ultimately delivering a high-purity refined product.
- Lithium-anomalous pegmatite dykes identified at the Dudley prospect within the Company’s Kangaroo Island Project, located in South Australia.
- Appointment of Mr Mark Strizek as Manager, Raw Materials with his responsibilities including the global exploration portfolio, identifying new resource opportunities and sourcing raw material inputs for future operations of SiLeach® and LieNA®
- Intersection of significant multiple lithium mineralisation in RC drilling targeting lithium, caesium tantalum (LCT) pegmatites within the Youanmi project area.
- Finalisation of partnership with DLG through incorporation of a JV business division, Soluna Australia Pty Ltd, to provide technical support, customer service, as well as a range of lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery options for improved safety and superior performance in ESS applications.
- LieNA® technology, derived from several years’ R&D, undertaken in collaboration with ANSTO, transitioned from a scoping study to preliminary feasibility study assessment.
- LIT’s subsidiary Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd, through shredding of LIBs and separation of its components, provided mixed metal dust (MMD) to the Company for recycling technology development studies, for recovering lithium, in particular, in addition to cobalt, nickel and copper. Lithium recovered from the MMD as LP was then refined to be used in the production of LFP cathode powder.
- More than 4% Li2O reported under the assay results from the maiden RC drilling programme within the Youanmi Project area, including significant widths of high-grade lithium mineralisation.
- Development of processes to recover metals from spent LIBs and based on the Company’s internal process modelling, the technologies generate-
- LP of 99.9% purity, with expected lithium recoveries of >85%, and
- Overall process recoveries for nickel and cobalt of >90%.
- LIT’s subsidiary VSPC delivered high-quality cathode material using refined LiFePO4-lithium phosphate derived from spent LIBs, which exceeded VSPC standards for electro-chemical performance.
- Envirostream signed an MoU with the largest South Korean battery recycler, SungEel HiTech Co., Ltd for the sale of recycled battery metals.
- Increased stake in Envirostream from 23.9% to 73.7% through the payment of around $ 100,000, depicting a key milestone in creating a circular battery economy. Eventually, in December 2019, the Company signed a binding agreement to increase its stakes to 90%.
- VSPC completed Stage 1 cathode-material testing at DLG’s R&D facility located in Shanghai, China with potential customers in China and Japan.
- Envirostream reported the first production of high-value MMD from the new battery recycling plant in Melbourne.
- Agreement executed with The Lind Global Macro Fund, LP, an entity managed by The Lind Partners, for an investment of up to AUD 6.3 million.
- First shipment of MMD released from upgraded battery recycling plant in Campbellfield, Victoria for delivery to South Korea.
Lithium Australia closed the highly eventful year with AUD 3 million received under its AUD 6.3 million funding agreement with The Lind Global Macro Fund as well as AUD 1.23-million R&D rebate received from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) concerning eligible activities under the ATO’s R&D tax incentive scheme for FY19.
Stock Performance: With a market cap of around AUD 33.41 million and ~ 556.77 million shares outstanding, the LIT stock closed the trading on 2 January 2020 at AUD 0.063, zooming up 5%. LIT has also generated 1-month and 3 -month positive returns of 71.43% and 33.33% respectively.
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