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Ansto helps with new lithium extraction method

7th June 2022

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia


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PERTH ( – Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has joined forces with ASX-listed Lithium Australia to develop a world-first technology to extract more lithium from lithium mining waste, in a game-changer for the Australian lithium industry.

In a statement this week ANSTO noted that current recovery techniques only recovered between 50% to 70% of lithium from original ores, and the process was highly energy-intensive.

Lithium Australia and ANSTO have now jointly developed a process called LieNA®, which removes the need for high-temperature processing and is ideally suited to processing of the waste, and realising the majority of the lithium value from Australia’s hard rock deposits.

Patented by Lithium Australia, the LieNA® technology involves an initial treatment of the waste spodumene with caustic under autoclave conditions to form a synthetic lithium sodalite which can be easily recovered.

Lithium is then easily extracted and purified in relatively straightforward, hydrometallurgical processing steps and finally isolated as lithium phosphate, which can be directly used in the manufacture of lithium ferro-phosphate batteries.’

The new technology enables the majority (>95%) of the lithium value to be realised, with vastly reduced energy inputs compared with conventional processing.

ANSTO senior process chemist Dr Chris Griffith noted that not only would the new technology improve the overall extraction, it avoids the energy-intensive, high-temperature step of conventional spodumene processing, and increases the sustainability of lithium operations world-wide.

“Until now, it has been quite accepted by industry that a large amount of lithium is ‘lost’ during processing. We’re the first in the world to achieve such an efficient level of extraction,” Griffith said.

“This technology really has huge potential for an industry which is integral to our transition to the electrification of transport, and ultimately to a cleaner and greener future.”

In early 2020, Lithium Australia was awarded A$1.3-million from the federal government’s Department of Industry, Science and Technology CRC-P Round 8 program. The overall objective of the CRC-P program is to progress the development of LieNA® to a feasibility study level and eventual commercialisation of the LieNA® technology.

“ANSTO has been pleased to work with Lithium Australia Limited on processing technology development since 2015, and it is sensational to see the LieNA technology reach this stage,” Griffith said.

Lithium Australia CFO Stuart Tarrant said that partnering with ANSTO to develop the LieNA® technology has been highly beneficial to the company.

“If commercialised, LieNA® has the potential to achieve both and as an outcome we have experienced higher interest from lithium concentrate producers.”

Griffith pointed out that demand for lithium had reached record-level highs and the amount of metal used has almost quadrupled in the last decade, with some estimates indicating that the global lithium-ion battery market size will grow from $41.1-billion in 2021 to $116.6-billion by 2030.

“Innovation like this puts Australia in a good position to move away from simply supplying a mineral concentrate to overseas converters as quickly as possible. It provides another avenue for Australia to maximise the value from our valuable critical and energy mineral resources and allows us to conduct more value-adding downstream processing here in Australia,” he added.

Australia supplies about 60% of the world’s lithium in the form of spodumene. With an abundance of ‘hard rock’ lithium, the country is amongst the countries with the largest lithium deposits globally.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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