EcoPro will conduct research and development on lithium clay resource, one of three distinct styles of lithium mineralization found at Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron project. The goal will be to develop a process to commercialize Rhyolite Ridge lithium clay to produce refined lithium materials for the US EV battery supply chain.
Stage 1 of Rhyolite Ridge focuses on searlesite (high lithium, high boron) mineralization, while the lithium clay mineralization will be extracted and set aside. Stage 1 is in the final phase of the US federal review process. In this, Ioneer will produce an annual average of approximately 20,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate alongside approximately 174,400 tonnes of boric acid per year during the mine’s 26-year life.
As part of the new agreement, EcoPro has agreed to fund and build a commercial-scale refining plant to develop lithium clay supplied from Rhyolite Ridge. The lithium clay raw material would be supplied at no cost to EcoPro and the profits from the commercial refining plant would be equally shared between EcoPro and Rhyolite Ridge. Under the agreement, the MOU will be managed by a jointly developed Project Committee.
“Lithium extraction technology is not just a process of selectively extracting lithium, but a complex and difficult technology that requires removing uncertain impurities,” said Anthony Kim, EcoPro Innovation president. “EcoPro has an original patent for lithium extraction from waste batteries and launched its business in EcoPro Group. EcoPro is a technology-competitive company with a number of source patents in hydromet processes. We will perform well as soon as possible to gain the upper hand from other competitors.”
Once operational, Stage 1 of Rhyolite Ridge will quadruple the current US supply of lithium and help to rebalance the global production of boric acid. Upon anticipated completion of the US federal permitting process, construction at Rhyolite Ridge, largely funded through the combination of conditional commitments of $490 million USD in equity from Sibanye-Stillwater and a $700 million USD conditional loan from the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, is set to begin in 2024. Lithium production is expected to follow in 2026.
“We look forward to accelerating the development of another layer of Rhyolite Ridge mineralization,” said James Calaway, Ioneer executive chairman. “This partnership provides Ioneer additional financial flexibility to focus on delivering its core investment at Rhyolite Ridge, as well as develop growth opportunities. The ultimate goal of EcoPro and Ioneer is to increase the supply of refined lithium materials for the US EV supply chain and create hundreds of good-paying jobs in Nevada and beyond.”
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Filed Under: Batteries, Technology News