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CleanTech Lithium's DLE pilot plant commences operation in Chile

11:46, 20th March 2024
Victor Parker
Vox Newswire

CleanTech Lithium (CTLFollow | CTL, a Chile-focused lithium explorer, announced that its pilot plant in Copiapó had commenced operations and was producing lithium chloride eluate through a Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) process.

Following a successful commissioning phase, the DLE plant is now online. Brine from CleanTech's nearby Laguna Verde project is being fed into DLE columns at the plant where lithium chloride is extracted onto an adsorbent before desorption with water to create purified lithium chloride eluate. The first eluate was produced last week.

CleanTech's pilot plant has a design capacity of 1 tonne per month lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) as concentrated eluate. A reverse osmosis unit at the pilot plant will be used to concentrate the product. It will then be shipped in batches to North America for conversion into battery-grade lithium carbonate. CleanTech has engaged Conductive Energy for the conversion.

The pilot plant will be used for process optimisation and product verification and will provide key input into the Pre-feasibility study (PFS) currently underway for the Laguna Verde project.


View from Vox

CleanTech Lithium's DLE pilot plant is now operational, making CTL one of few companies in the space to produce pilot scale volumes of battery grade product. The plant is located some 250km from CleanTech's flagship Laguna Verde project in northern Chile, which is currently undergoing a pre-feasibility study (PFS).

Brine from Laguna Verde will feed the pilot plant, which will then output significant quantities of battery-grade product for evaluation by potential strategic partners. These include major auto and battery manufacturers that CTL is targeting for off-take agreements.

Crucially, data from CleanTech's DLE pilot plant will be incorporated into the Laguna Verde PFS, expected in Q3 2024. A resource evaluation programme at Laguna Verde is ongoing, aiming to produce a JORC compliant reserve estimate by Q3. The existing resource of 1.8m tonnes of LCE in the Measured, Indicated and Inferred categories is based on 6 wells completed in 2022 and 2023. A further 5 wells are scheduled for H1 2024. The increased drilling density and pump tests planned for the new wells should yield a materially higher resource estimate to plan life of mine (LOM) and production output in the PFS.

DLE offers substantial advantages in extraction efficiency, capacity scaling, timing, and environmental permitting over traditional methods. With the ability to potentially double lithium yield from brine projects, elevating it from the conventional 40-60% range to 70-90%+, DLE introduces sustainability benefits that align with the preferences of ESG-oriented investors. Notably, these include a remarkable 20-fold reduction in land usage from the lack of evaporation ponds.

CleanTech has also committed to using 100% renewable energy in its lithium extraction and processing. The company's approach is aligned with Chile's National Lithium Strategy, which mandates the use of DLE.

CleanTech remains well-funded following November's fundraise. In the likely event that the Chilean government enters a partnership with CleanTech, we expect significant near-term upside as the company's two main projects are streamlined toward production by 2027.

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