Eye on Lithium: Major miner Albemarle faces $4bn fine for environmental breaches
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All your ASX lithium news for Tuesday, March 15.
Chile’s Superintendence of the Environment (SMA) filed two charges against mining giant Albemarle after overextraction of brine at the Atacama Salt Flat.
The company is facing fines of up to $US4 billion after exceeding the limit of the average annual flow authorised, by extracting 452 litres/seconds for the operational year from October 2019 to September 2020 instead of 442 litres/seconds.
Albemarle is also facing a second infraction because it did not comply with all the measures committed in the Early Warning Plan (PAT) of the Aquifer Alert Sector, in March 2021 “which manifested itself in not notifying the SMA of its activation and not reducing – immediately – the extraction of brine from its project, for the period of February and March 2021,” the SMA said.
“Remember that in this area, in addition to Albemarle, 3 other mining companies operate – Zaldívar (CMZ), Escondida (MEL) and Soquimich (SQM) – whose activities could directly affect ecosystems and communities. To date, all of them have been charged for various environmental non-compliance,” Superintendent of the Environment Cristóbal De La Maza said.
Albemarle extracts lithium-rich brine from beneath the Atacama salt flat and puts it into open-air pools at its Salar plant, where the sun evaporates it to a concentration of 6% lithium.
The company processes the brines into battery-grade lithium carbonate and lithium chloride at its 44,000 tonnes per year La Negra chemical plant – which is being expanded to a third phase that will increase its production capacity to over 80,000 tonnes per year.
First commercial sales from La Negra operations are expected in the second quarter.
The company is also planning to start-up of its Kemerton complex in WA in the second half of the year, and it also operates the only lithium mine in the US, and expects its sales volume to grow by 20-30% as it doubles capacity to about 200,000mt/year by 2025.
The company is also analysing options beyond 2025 to restart its Kings Mountain lithium mine in North Carolina and potentially build conversion facilities in North America and Europe.
Bad day. Only 8 stocks were in the green today, with 19 flatlining and a massive 72 in the red.
The company has appointed Ramón Jiménez Serrano as CEO of the its wholly owned Spanish subsidiary Extremadura New Energies – which will focus on new sustainable industries in energy transition to complement the company’s San José Project.
Serrano previously held the Managing Director and CEO roles for Tedagua and Cobra (ACS Group), where he oversaw the permitting and construction of numerous water and energy infrastructure projects under EPC and O&M contracts both in Extremadura, Spain and internationally.
“With an impressive track record in bringing major projects to fruition, we are excited to have a proven leader shape these next steps in the progression of San José and the alignment of this major European lithium industrial project to the local community of Caceres,” Infinity CEO Ryan Parkin said.
INF is currently in court fighting the cancellation of its project permit, and has recently made an effort to improve its relationship with the local community around the project in Cáceres – with Extremadura New Energies has also signed a cooperation agreement outlining how they can work together for the benefit of the people of Cáceres and promote economic development within the lithium-ion battery value chain.
The gold, lithium, and base metals explorer has just released the latest air-core assay results from its Yule project in the under-explored Mallina Basin in the Pilbara.
Drilling at the new gold target at Yule North returned 4m at 0.8g/t from 74 metres, and lithium pegmatite pathfinders and arsenic haloes were expanded at Target 2 at Yule South.
The company believes the prospectivity of their project for LCT pegmatites is bolstered by the occurence of multiple zones of spodumene pegmatites, identified by Sayona Mining (ASX:SYA) at their Mallina Project, located only 37kms to the southwest of Target 2.
The company has now prioritised six multi-commodity target areas to focus on with follow up drilling.
The company has invested C$1 Million in Canadian battery technology company, Volt Carbon Technologies Inc (TSXV:VCT) via a placement – and will own 5.2% of VCT on completion.
VCT has patent pending technology in solid-state lithium batteries for major automotive, aerospace and consumer electronics applications and expects and is advancing proprietary graphite air-classification technology, which aims to deliver more efficient and environmentally friendly natural graphite beneficiation.
The investment provides CRR exposure to emerging downstream lithium battery and graphite technologies.
“Given Critical Resources’ growing footprint in Canadian lithium, we believe there are additional opportunities to explore in the refining of battery-grade materials for North American markets,” VCT CEO and president William Pfaffenberger said.
MinRex has identified large pegmatites hosting visible spodumene over the Tambourah North, Leavers Well and Twin Well project areas in WA’s East Pilbara region.
No modern exploration drilling for lithium has ever been carried out within the three project areas and non-executive director and lithium geologist George Karageorge said the company is “delighted to have identified spodumene within extensive outcropping pegmatites over three project areas.”
“These rich spodumene stacked pegmatites have extensive width, strike and zoning which have all the hallmarks of a potential Archer Lithium Deposit,” he said.
“MinRex is currently working on the first RC drill program to test the extensive stacked pegmatites over all 3 project areas with a view of signing the drilling contractor to undertake drilling over the projects once all approvals have been issued.”