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New lithium extraction technology set for commerialization: Canada's IBAT leases portable DLE plant to client in US

Image: IBAT

Lithium mining company International Battery Metals (IBAT) announced that it had leased its portable direct lithium extraction plant to a customer in the Western United States.

"The integrated system will represent the first commercial direct lithium extraction (DLE) operation to go online in North America," the company said in a release, adding: "IBAT will immediately begin mobilizing the … plant to the customer's site where it will be integrated into existing production facilities."

Vancouver-headquartered IBAT did not identify the client, who was referred to as "a significant producer of metals and minerals including the production of battery grade lithium carbonate", but said the plant would begin producing lithium within six months.

"The initial targeted production, following commissioning, is approximately 4,000 metric tons per annum of lithium carbonate with the goal of increasing this production to over 8,000 metric tons per annum by optimizing the plant," the company said.

DLE refers to a group of technologies that constitute an alternative method of producing lithium, which is generally produced using large evaporation ponds or open-pit mines. DLE is quicker and offers higher recovery rates, while also taking up less space: IBAT's plant is less than three acres in size.

IBAT also claims its technology offers recovery rates of 95 percent, double the conventional methods of production. However, the DLE technologies remains unproven at scale. ExxonMobil is among players looking to leverage DLE for its lithium operations.

IBAT's plant, dubbed MDLE for modular DLE plant, uses the Canadian company's proprietary selective absorption lithium media to extract lithium from brine fluids.

It was constructed in the US state of in Louisiana, where it was also tested and validated for operational performance by an independent third party.Its modular design allows the plant to be mobilized to a customer's facilities, and once operational, optimized to increase production capacity.

Optimization consists of adding additional extraction modules, each containing IBAT's proprietary selective absorption lithium media, and increasing certain valves and pumps to accommodate additional flow of brines.

John Burba, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, said in the release announced the deal: "Our MDLE Plant is the industry leading direct lithium extraction technology available today. We are very excited for this opportunity to reach full commercialization and look forward to future developments with our outstanding customer." 

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