Eye on Lithium: There could be competition for Chile’s lithium-rich salt flats from breeding flamingos
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All your ASX lithium news for Monday, March 14.
Chile is known for its massive lithium reserves of around 8 million tonnes, but it turns out a combination of climate change and lithium mining could be impacting flamingo populations.
A study by the University of South Carolina showed that two species of flamingos that breed only in the shallow, saltwater lakes in the Chilean Andes have already lost 10 to 12 percent of their populations in just 11 years – but only at the lake affected by mining.
“Given how rapidly our demand for lithium is growing, there is a great need to understand what negative effects its production might be having on biodiversity and especially those species, like flamingos, that are important to local economies,” University of South Carolina population biologists and co-author of the paper Dr Nathan Senner said.
For now, mining’s impact on the region is limited, abut Senner says that may not last, as lithium mining expands to meet international demand for the metal.
Climate change and #lithium mining negatively influence flamingos https://t.co/fij2VZXhlz via @physorg_com
A recent scientific study shows the growing need to switch to alternative methods of extracting the lightest metal on earth. #Chile #Bolivia
— Juan Carlos Zuleta (@jczuleta) March 13, 2022
Miners and explorers in South America’s ‘Lithium Triangle’ – which contains about 75% of the world’s known resources – have been facing scrutiny for a while.
Major producer Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile SA’s (NYSE:SQM) application to expand its operations was blocked by a Chilean court back in 2019 after Indigenous groups protested that the company was overdrawing brine and affecting water reserves.
“The Lithium Triangle is one of the driest places on Earth, which complicates the process of lithium extraction: miners have to drill holes in the salt flats to pump salty, mineral-rich brine to the surface,” according to the Harvard International Review.
“They then let the water evaporate for months at a time, forming a mixture of potassium, manganese, borax, and lithium salts that is then filtered and left to evaporate once more.
“While lithium extraction is relatively cheap and effective, it begs the question of sustainability and long-term impact.”
It explains why new ‘environmentally friendly’ extraction techniques – like those championed by lithium stocks Lake Resources (ASX:LKE) and Vulcan Energy (ASX:VUL) – are gaining traction with the market.
A total of 31 stocks were in the green today, with 27 flatlining and 41 in the red.
The $806m market cap company announced today that its JV company Primobius is in advanced discussions with Mercedes-Benz regarding the design and construction of a 2,500 tpa lithium-ion battery recycling plant.
Mercedes said the recovered material will be fed back into the recycling loop to produce more than 50,000 battery modules for the new Mercedes-EQ models.
Based on the findings of the pilot plant, production volumes could be scaled up in the medium to long term.
NMT managing director Chris Reed said the company is excited to assist Mercedes in its goal to re-use recovered materials and develop a holistic and sustainable recycling approach for lithium-ion batteries.
“Lithium battery recycling supports conservation of resources, decarbonisation and supply chain resilience,” he said.
“All of our discussions to date have been very positive and we look forward to continuing our negotiations and entering into binding legal agreements in the near future.”
The explorer has branched into lithium, applying for three tenements prospective for lithium in the Northern Territory – known as the Litchfield lithium project and the Daly River lithium project.
Both projects are near Core Lithium’s (ASX:CXO) Finnis project, and Ragusa says Daly River is in the same geological setting.
“The company’s two new lithium projects are a significant opportunity for Ragusa to utilise our exploration and development experience to rapidly progress both projects, given their prime positions adjacent to major lithium projects in a Tier 1 jurisdiction,” Chairperson Jerko Zuvela said.
“Planning works have commenced to identify prospective lithium targets from historical data.
“We look forward to advancing and further developing our project areas at a time of record lithium prices, and within a proven high-quality lithium area.”
Chris Ellison’s Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) will take a 5% stake in the fast rising lithium explorer after joining a ~$30 million capital in the junior as a cornerstone investor.
Iron ore and lithium miner MinRes operates the Wodgina and Mt Marion JVs in the Pilbara and Goldfields, respectively, not far from GL1’s Marble Bar and Manna projects.
MinRes will top $13.6m into the placement for GL1, which is up over 500% since listing last year.
Another $11.3m of shares will be issued to institutional investors with a $4.3m placement going to Suzhou to maintain its 9.9% share in the explorer.
The company has completed heritage survey field work with traditional owners and has been granted its program of works approval by the Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety for its Mallina lithium project in WA.
Everything is lining up for the maiden drilling program to begin at the end of this month.
“This is an exceptional time to be advancing the Mallina Lithium Project and building on years of previous mapping, study and drilling work,” CEO Alex Cheeseman said.
“We have a very targeted drill program seeking to intercept primary pegmatites and we are very excited to get the drill rigs working on site.
The $129m market cap company is also starting early-stage exploration and mapping of the pegmatites at Mt Edon/Mt Edon West, which Cheeseman says represents a great opportunity to search for lithium in the Murchison area.
“Such a discovery could bring an entirely new battery mineral export opportunity to the region and we look forward to completing key early-stage activities at what is a very exciting prospect,” he said.
Red Dirt has consolidated a package of tenements adjoining its current landholding within the Mt Ida lithium-copper-gold project area which comprises around 11km2 of prospective lithium and gold terrain – and the historic Golden Vale gold mine.
Plus, the acquisition of the tenement package also consolidates 100% ownership of Mt Ida Mining Lease M29/165 via the inclusion of the remaining 5% not currently held by Red Dirt.
The $155m company considers this acquisition to be highly complementary to its existing suite of tenements and plans to include it in its expanded regional exploration strategy at Mt Ida.