Cornish Lithium Ltd., the innovative mineral exploration and development company based in Cornwall, UK, is pleased to announce that the Company will now accelerate the Trelavour hard rock lithium project near St Austell following the successful production of nominal battery-grade lithium hydroxide. This was achieved using Australian Stock Exchange listed Lepidico Ltd’s (“Lepidico”) (ASX:LPD) proprietary L-Max® and LOH-Max® process technologies on lithium mica samples obtained during its maiden hard rock lithium drilling programme within an existing china clay open pit earlier this year.
The Company has now acquired a technology licence from Lepidico which provides Cornish Lithium with an innovative and environmentally responsible metallurgical processing solution for the Trelavour project. Cornish Lithium can now proceed immediately towards bulk metallurgical testing and the construction of a pilot plant using Lepidico’s proprietary L-Max® and LOH-Max® technologies.
The Company believes that this work will accelerate domestic production of battery quality lithium chemicals for the UK automotive and battery industry as well as generating a significant number of skilled jobs in the St Austell area of Cornwall. The licence to the L-Max® and LOH-Max® technologies will allow development of the low-carbon extraction of lithium from zinnwaldite and polylithionite mica ores in the St Austell region. Work so far has indicated the potential of this technology to produce battery-grade lithium in Cornwall without the need for further refining, thus offering a complete on-site solution. The licence is exclusive to Cornish Lithium and covers the entire St Austell Granite region, an area of approximately 93km2. Importantly, Cornish Lithium has also entered into a strategic collaboration agreement with Lepidico to further develop the L-Max® and LOH-Max® technologies for lithium extraction from zinnwaldite and polylithionite mica mineralisation from the St Austell region of Cornwall.
Jeremy Wrathall, Founder and CEO of Cornish Lithium, said:
“We are delighted to have acquired a licence from Lepidico that enables Cornish Lithium to fast track the hard rock Trelavour project towards commercial production of high purity lithium chemicals for the UK battery industry. We look forward to active collaboration with Lepidico and to optimising their processes for zinnwaldite and polylithionite mica ores in Cornwall.
“The next phase of work, which will shortly commence at Trelavour, will run in parallel with studies which continue to advance the Company’s lithium in geothermal waters projects across Cornwall. In particular, the forthcoming construction of the lithium pilot plant at United Downs, will enable the Company to trial Direct Lithium Extraction technology at the United Downs Deep Geothermal Project together with partners Geothermal Engineering Ltd.
“Importantly, Lepidico’s technologies are in keeping with Cornish Lithium’s desire to produce lithium in an environmentally friendly, low carbon manner given their ability to directly leach lithium bearing mica minerals at atmospheric pressure. The L-Max® and LOH-Max® technologies thus have excellent environmental and sustainability credentials. When combined with the fact that the Trelavour project is within an existing china clay open pit, we believe this represents a truly low-impact and environmentally responsible route to commercial production of lithium within the UK.”
Joe Walsh, Managing Director of Lepidico Ltd, said:
“Lepidico is delighted that Cornish Lithium has chosen to purchase a licence for use of our L-Max® and LOH-Max® technologies to extract lithium and other valuable by-products from zinnwaldite and polylithionite mineralisation sourced from the St Austell region of Cornwall. We look forward to advancing our collaboration with Cornish Lithium, with the objective of commercialising our process technologies on a broader suite of lithium mica minerals. Recent tests conducted for Cornish Lithium at the Strategic Metallurgy laboratory in Perth, Australia returned encouraging results that continue to demonstrate the potential to produce high purity lithium chemicals and other strategic metal compounds using our technologies.”
Cornish Lithium has been evaluating the possibility of extracting lithium from a recently operational china clay pit at Trelavour Downs in the St Austell area for the last two years, including the completion of a 41-hole drilling programme in 2020 and extensive metallurgical testing.
Process testing has been conducted at local laboratories in Cornwall and has also taken place using Lepidico’s technologies at the Strategic Metallurgy Laboratory in Australia. This work has been carefully monitored and overseen on behalf of Cornish Lithium by consultant metallurgists Lifezone Limited. The results of such testing have been highly encouraging, hence the decision to purchase a licence and to move towards full-scale pilot testing.
The purchase of a licence to Lepidico’s L-Max® and LOH-Max® technologies will allow rapid development of low carbon extraction of lithium from hard rock zinnwaldite and polylithionite mica ores in the St Austell region of Cornwall. Work so far has indicated the potential to produce battery grade lithium in Cornwall, without the need for further refining, thus offering a complete on-site solution.
The hydrometallurgical L-Max® and LOH-Max® processes, in which Lepidico has invested A$27 million during the last six years, involve direct atmospheric leaching of lithium mica and impurity removal stages with subsequent lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide precipitation. L-Max® amenability tests have been successfully undertaken on 19 different lithium mica and phosphate deposits globally.
This process differs considerably from the processing of spodumene, the current major hard rock source of lithium globally, which requires high temperature decrepitation and sulphate roasting prior to lithium recovery. The Lepidico L-Max® and LOH-Max® processes are much simpler and are expected to have lower energy requirements than other lithium recovery processes.
The Lepidico technologies also allow for the production of important by-products such as rubidium and caesium, (both of which are on the US Government Final List of Critical Minerals 2018) offering potential security of supply of metals used in the technology and defence sectors to the UK. The process also produces amorphous silica (a supplementary cementitious material used to reduce the carbon dioxide footprint of cement) and potassium sulphate (which is used extensively as a chloride-free fertiliser for fruit and vegetable farming) and production of these chemicals is expected to offset operating costs for the long term.
The St Austell region possesses excellent transport infrastructure, including railway and port facilities associated with the china clay industry. Some of this infrastructure is now underutilised but gives the opportunity to transport bulk materials associated with a possible new lithium industry for the region.
Cornish Lithium has paid £2.3 million (C$4 million) to Lepidico in order to secure the following:
- A 15-year royalty free licence to use the L-Max® and LOH-Max® technologies which is exclusive to Cornish Lithium and covers the entire St Austell granite region in Cornwall.
- Detailed engineering and process plans for the pilot plant constructed by Lepidico in Australia. This will allow Cornish Lithium to accelerate construction of a similar pilot facility in Cornwall which can be optimised for use with zinnwaldite and polylithionite micaceous ores.
- Ongoing technical collaboration regarding the development of various metallurgical processes and assistance from Lepidico personnel.
- A two-year option to purchase 100 million shares in Lepidico at an exercise price of A$0.016 per share. If exercised this would give Cornish Lithium a stake of 1.9% in Lepidico. Cornish Lithium believes that mutual development of the L-Max® and LOH-Max® extraction processes on zinnwaldite and polylithionite mica mineralisation can be expected to result in material value creation for both companies.
- The purchase of this licence has been possible due to the additional capital raised in the recent £5.2 million Crowdfunding exercise which has enabled the Company to fast-track its existing plans for the Trelavour project. The purchase will not adversely affect Cornish Lithium’s other planned workstreams.
Ongoing technical support and expertise
In conjunction with the decision to purchase a licence and to collaborate with Lepidico, Cornish Lithium has contracted Mr Alan Baker as a Consultant providing engineering services to the Company. Mr Baker has many years of experience in construction of mines and processing facilities around the world and will assist the Cornish Lithium team to fast-track the project to commercial production. In addition to ongoing metallurgical testwork, Cornish Lithium plans to commence a 26-hole, 4,000 metre, drilling programme in January 2021 in order to generate a mineral resource statement in mid-2021.
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About Cornish Lithium
Cornish Lithium is a highly innovative mineral exploration and development company focused on the environmentally sustainable extraction of lithium from geothermal waters and hard rock in the historic mining district of Cornwall, UK. The Company has secured agreements with the owners of mineral rights over a large area of the County and is using modern technology to re-evaluate the region’s potential for low carbon extraction of lithium and other vital technology metals such as tin, copper and cobalt. A secure domestic supply of such metals is considered vital to the industrial strategy of the UK as it moves towards the production of electric vehicles.
Lepidico (ASX:LPD) is a global lithium exploration and development company with offices in Perth and Toronto. Differentiated by its 100% owned clean-tech L-Max® and LOH-Max® process technologies that extract lithium and recovers valuable by-products from less contested lithium-mica and phosphate minerals. Lepidico’s strategic objective is to become a vertically integrated business, from mine to production of environmentally responsible battery grade lithium chemicals.