Eye on Lithium: The US is heating up the geothermal lithium space with a US$12m funding opportunity
All your lithium news, Friday November 11.
Australian trailblazer Vulcan Energy (ASX:VUL) has been a proponent of the potential for geothermal lithium brines to deliver lithium without the environmental footprint typically associated with their production.
This involves pumping hot, lithium-rich salty water (brines) to the earth’s surface to rotate turbines to generate electricity while extracting the lithium.
While several other companies have also started investigating geothermal lithium brines, Vulcan has been charging ahead with its pilot plant having recently produced lithium hydroxide grading 57.1% LiOH, easily exceeding the best-on-the-market battery grade specification of 56.5% LiOH required from offtake customers.
Now the US Department of Energy is getting in on geothermal lithium as well with the announcement of a US$12m funding opportunity to “advance the science of safe, cost-efficient lithium extraction and refining from geothermal brines”.
This funding be will used by recipients on applied research and field demonstrations to improve current procedures and technologies.
While geothermal brines account a small portion of domestic lithium reserves in the US, with even the DOE acknowledging that it is viable in only a few places such as California’s Salton Sea, then rapidly expanding market for electric vehicles could make clean geothermal energy generation combined with lithium extraction more cost competitive.
The Salton Sea has previously been estimated to be capable of producing up to 600,000tpa of lithium carbonate from geothermal fluids rich in critical metals such as lithium, manganese, zinc and others.
88 lithium companies finished in the green, 33 fell flat and only 12 tumbled into the red as the share market hit a five-month high of 2.7pc with all 11 sectors having gained something.
PLS has secured a 10 year debt facility from the Australian Government, through Export Finance Australia and Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility agencies, to support the expansion of its Pilgangoora Operation in WA’s Pilbara.
EFA has approved finance of the US$ equivalent of A$125m, whilst NAIF has agreed to provide up to A$125m in funding.
The senior secured facility of up to A$250m will support the construction of the P680 Project expansion to the Pilgan Plant to deliver an additional 100,000tpa of spodumene concentrate production at an estimated capital cost of $103m.
It will also go towards the 5Mtpa crushing and ore sorting facility, which will replace the existing contracted crushing facility and facilitate future expansions that could ultimately deliver up to 1Mtpa of spodumene concentrate capacity across the entire Pilgangoora operation at a capital cost of $194m.
TKM has signed an agreement with Strike Energy for potential lithium brine testing in WA’s Midwest region – forming part of a regional lithium brine exploration initiative, which has also seen Trek apply for a portfolio of exploration tenements in the Midwest.
Subject to the grant of the Geothermal Exploration Permit (GEP) on conditions acceptable to Strike, Strike is proposing to drill the Future State-1 well.
If Strike drills the Well, Strike has agreed to provide a formational water sample from the Well to Trek so that Trek can analyse the sample for lithium content.
Trek has been assessing exploration tenure in Western Australia where there may be an opportunity to explore for lithium in-brines due to the presence of favourable target horizons that are being exploited for geothermal energy.
Trek has three granted and two pending mineral exploration licenses held by 100% owned subsidiary Anaheim Pty Ltd in the Midwest region which overlap Strike Energy’s Geothermal Power Project – which is based on the Kingia Sandstones target horizon.
Askari Metals has expanded its eastern Pilbara lithium portfolio through the acquisition of the Hillside Lithium Project covering an area of 65km2 in the Pilbara, which is highly prospective for lithium-tin-tantalum mineralisation.
Hillside Lithium Project is along strike and adjacent to the Trigg Hill and East Curlew lithium projects which are being actively explored by Eastern Resources (ASX: EFE).
“The Hillside Lithium Project completes the company’s aggressive acquisition strategy in the eastern Pilbara region of Western Australia,” AS2 executive director Gino D’Anna says.
“We believe that the exploration potential of this project is significant and this is highlighted by the recent exploration success at the Tambourah Lithium Project owned by Riversgold Limited and the Tambourah North Lithium Project owned by Trek Metals Limited.”
A 10,000m diamond drill program has commenced on schedule at the Pontax Lithium Project in the James Bay lithium region of Quebec, Canada focussing on resource definition and step out discovery drilling.
The program is targeting multiple shallow spodumene bearing pegmatites in the top 150m over an initial 1,000 metres strike.
CY5 says initial focus will be on down dip and along strike extents of the known high grade Pontax Central outcrop, which has existing known shallow, high grade intersections up to 2.6% Li2O from only 19.4m.
Assay results from RC holes MDRC024, MDRC025, MDRC027, MDRC031 and MDRC033 have been received with all holes returning significant shallow intersections.
Latest hits include 68.6m at 1669ppm Li from surface, including 13.7m at 2455 ppm Li from 35.1m, and 50.3m at 1512 ppm Li from surface, including 6.1m at 2,100ppm Li from 29m.
CXO says crushing of lithium ore commenced on November 9 with the first load of DSO trucked from its Finniss Lithium Project in the Northern Territory in the early morning of November 11.
“The DSO will be trucked from Finniss to Darwin Port over the coming weeks with loading of the ship to commence at the end of the month,” the company highlighted in a recent business update.