Lake advances Argentina lithium testing

Staff reporter

‘The ion exchange DLE technology at Kachi is working extremely well’

Argentina-focused lithium developer Lake Resources has described successful field testing of Lilac Solutions’ direct brine-lithium extraction technology as a key de-risking step for the 80%-owned Kachi project.

CEO David Dickson said results of “one of the largest successful direct lithium extraction [DLE] testing programs ever undertaken” was a key milestone in Lake’s definitive feasibility study preparation, with the DFS due for completion in December.

“This work supports the phased approach to first commercial lithium production from 2H 2027, with a targeted plant capacity of 25,000 tonnes per annum of battery-grade LCE [lithium carbonate equivalent] by 2028, and targeted plant capacity of 50,000tpa battery-grade LCE from 2030,” Dickson said this week.

“The ion exchange DLE technology at Kachi is working extremely well with outstanding rates of recovery at ambient brine temperatures, minimal water consumption, and high lithium concentrations.”

California-based Lilac, formed in 2016, owns the other 20% of Kachi. The Oakland-headquartered company developed and patented ion exchange technology to extract lithium from brines without the need for evaporation ponds.

Lilac closed a US$150 million series B equity financing in 2021, drawing new investors such as SK Materials, BMW i Ventures, and Presidio Ventures, part of Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation.

Lake Resources engaged British Columbia-based Saltworks Technologies to oversee the lithium carbonate test program and delivered 120,000 litres of concentrated lithium chloride eluate to Saltworks’ new Richmond test centre from its demonstration plant in Argentina’s Catamarca Province.

Dickson said the volume of eluate enabled bench-scale validation, pilot plant (1000-litre) and demonstration plant (10,000-litre) testing. The data would be used in commercial plant design.

“Most DLE lithium carbonate announcements are based on a few kilograms of carbonate produced on a lab bench scale unit,” he said.

“We’ve produced more lithium carbonate than most DLE projects under development.

“This gives us great confidence in our process.”

Lake says the Catamarca demonstration plant is expected to process about four million litres of Kachi brine to produce more than 200,000 litres of eluate before it is shut down in October.

“The extraction technology is now proven, and we are concentrating on designing well-structured project schedules for a facility with a target design life of 25 years at Kachi,” Dickson said.

In a recent research note, Canadian investment bank Red Cloud Securities said having de-risked Kachi with more realistic estimates, “and quelling scepticism around its DLE technology, we believe that new management has brought [Lake’s] story back on track”.

“Risks surrounding the DLE technology will likely include scaling it up to commercial rates,” Red Cloud said.

“But considering that 25% of brine processing and DLE concentrate production will be completed within the next month, this suggests that extraction and processing rates may be accelerating.

“Meanwhile, we see tremendous potential as recent testing may improve Stage 1 economics and growing resources should allow production expansion from 25,500tpa to 50,000tpa.”

The bank said “plenty of battery-grade LCE” had been created from Lilac’s DLE lithium chloride eluate.

Reported impurities were below design specification and battery grade limits.

“We view the program completion as an important de-risking step and management remains confident in its process given the amount of LCE produced – [which is] more than a typical developer would attempt at this stage.

“Large amounts of battery-grade LCE are now available for qualification purposes for potential off-takers.”

ASX-listed Lake Resources has a current market value around A$256 million.


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