- Lithium Australia’s revolutionary extraction technology LieNA® receives green signal from International Preliminary Examining Authority; termed as Novel and Inventive.
- Following patent receipt in early April 2020 from the Commissioner of Patents and the latest endorsement, LieNA® now progresses to National Phase assessment to seek legal protection in selected jurisdictions.
- LieNA® expected to create an unconstrained production pathway to process fine and variable-grade spodumene as well as create significant value for Australian hard-rock lithium producers and related projects in development.
Perth, Australia-based Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT), aspiring to establish a circular battery economy, has announced its revolutionary extraction technology LieNA®, which recovers lithium from fine and variable-grade spodumene has moved to the patent grant stage.
Lithium Australia has been consistent in its efforts to commercialise its proprietary LieNA® technology to achieve improvements when it comes to lithium recovery from spodumene. Earlier on 9 February 2020, The Hon. Karen Andrews MP, Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, had announced that Lithium Australia is a successful CRC-P (Co-operative Research Centres Projects) grant recipient for Round 8. Around $ 1.3 million from the CRC-P round 8 programme would be allocated to the Company for moving onto the next stage of development of its second-generation LieNA® technology, for which the total project cost has been estimated to be around $ 3.6 million.
Intellectual Property Development
Lithium Australia had already received Patent Number 2017306576 with priority details 2016903041, effective 2 August 2016, for its first-generation LieNA® development from the Commissioner of Patents, as informed on 6 April 2020. As per the features of a standard patent, the Company has been provided both long-term protection and control over its invention for up to 20 years.
More recently, the second-generation LieNA® development patent application PCT/AU2019/050773) has been reviewed by the International Examining Authority on a preliminary basis for its patentability. The report received has indicated a positive feedback with the key points of this examination being:
- Claims are novel and therefore comply with PCT Article 33(2).
- Claims involve an inventive step and therefore comply with PCT Article 33(3).
- The invention defined in the claims is considered to meet the requirements of Industrial Applicability under Article 33(4) of the PCT because it can be made by, or used in, industry.
Following this positive endorsement, the application is now set to progress into a National Phase assessment in jurisdictions where the Company is seeking legal protection.
LieNA® - Overview & Advantages
Production of lithium from hard-rock generally poses the issue of sustainability. The LieNA® process developed by Lithium Australia in collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has been designed to reduce the footprint of mining operations and recover lithium from fine and variable-grade spodumene, that otherwise goes to waste or tailings streams after existing concentration processes and thereby lower environmental impacts.
Furthermore, lithium recovery is sometimes as low as 50% from conventional spodumene beneficiation pathway due to constraints regarding concentrate offtake specification imposed by the existing generation of lithium chemical manufacturers, who still start lithium recovery by roasting of the concentrate.
LieNA® does not require a roasting/calcination/conversion of alpha to beta spodumene stage. Also, it is not constrained by particle feed size or high concentrate grades and rather utilises an alkaline source, like caustic soda, at a temperature and pressure required for conversion of mineral spodumene to a lithium-bearing sodalite phase. Thereafter, the sodalite is recovered and selectively leached to produce a lithium-bearing solution which is further treated to produce a high-purity, refined tri-lithium phosphate (LP) product.
Extensive test work has been conducted on LieNA® technology by Lithium Australia and ANSTO, which gives the Company immense confidence to commit to semi-continuous pilot-plant evaluation of the flowsheet (which is the scope of the CRC-P programme).
As Lithium Australia envisions to ‘close the loop’ on the energy-metal cycle, it is striving to establish a position in the battery-raw-materials supply chain and create an unconstrained production pathway. In offering a novel method for processing fine and variable-grade spodumene, LieNA® does have the potential to create significant value for Australian hard-rock lithium producers and also for projects under development.
The LIT stock last traded at AUD 0.053 on 12 June 2020, with a market cap of AUD 31.74 million.