Lithium Australia and Pilbara Minerals have signed an agreement to advance Sileach technology for potential future production of low-cost lithium carbonate in Western Australia (WA).
Lithium Australia's 100%-owned Sileach process has been developed to recover lithium from spodumene concentrates and does not require roasting.
The agreement is subject to the outcome of a series of testwork programmes and feasibility studies and could lead to the formation of a 50/50 joint venture (JV) with Pilbara.
It follows successful lithium extraction from spodumene by Ansto Minerals, with more than 90% achieved.
The JV will aim to commercialise the Sileach process and investigate the possibility of jointly developing a lithium conversion facility.
If the facility proceeds, it would potentially source spodumene concentrate from Pilbara's wholly owned Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum project.
The processing plant will be located at Port Hedland in WA near Pilbara's Pilgangoora project.
The Sileach process has been tested at various laboratories and results from testing of concentrates from Pilgangoora and other spodumene sources have provided for consideration of pilot testing at the Ansto Minerals facility in New South Wales.
Upon completion of testing at Ansto Minerals, the SJV partners can proceed with construction of a larger-scale pilot plant at Port Hedland.
Under the agreement, Lithium Australia will cover the capital cost of pilot testing, while Pilbara Minerals will supply the required spodumene concentrates for testing.
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said: "Successfully combining PLS's Pilgangoora spodumene concentrates with the low-energy Sileach process has the potential to add enormous value to both parties and may allow the SJV to deal directly with the lithium chemical consumers, including the battery manufacturers."