International Lithium has received a final report related to a concept study for the recovery of lithium using membrane separation at its Mariana lithium brine joint venture project in Salta, Argentina.
The study titled 'Proof of Concept Study – Lithium Recovery Using Membrane Separation' was conducted by South Africa-based firm Synexus.
Raw brine from the Salar de Llullaillaico location of Mariana was used for the study.
Based on the study, it has been determined that the selective recovery of lithium directly from raw (filtered) brine, with the simultaneous rejection of other cation and anion species, can be achieved using a lithium selective separation process.
International Lithium executive chairman Kirill Klip said: "The technology could provide a process route to produce lithium hydroxide directly from the raw brine without the need to remove contaminants like magnesium by liming, as would be required in the natural evaporation process.
"Based on initial estimates, the technology can achieve higher recoveries than natural evaporation even with relatively low concentrations of lithium."
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The membrane separation technology is claimed to ensure increased production rate compared with evaporative ponds.
As part of the study, lithium hydroxide (LiOH) was produced as a final product by selectively recovering lithium from the raw brine. LiOH is used in lithium battery manufacturing.
The technology is expected to replace the existing process of using natural solar evaporation to produce a brine concentrate comprising around 6% of lithium.
With additional refining, the technology is said to have the potential to allow the recovery of potassium and other cations.