Eye on Lithium: It’s never too late for an old fossil: “Her name’s Brine, she’s so shiny and extractable”
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All your lithium news, Monday June 26.
Like a 55-year-old divorcee downing enough Mojito’s at the bar to courageously sidle up to an Argentinian backpacker half his age, it was only a matter of time before fossil fuel extractors set their sights on lithium brine.
And that seems to be the case recently, with oil majors stepping up their efforts to break into lady lithium as part of their “no we won’t, yes we should” mind tussle to leave the old and become part of the new.
ExxonMobil, Schlumberger, Occidental Petroleum and Equinor are all busy looking at ways to use their knowledge in fluids processing to process lithium from brine.
Just Thursday last week, we reported new technological innovations from Monash University – direct lithium extraction (DLE) – tech that uses membranes to filter out impurities and speeds up extraction rates from months down to days at better recovery rates.
While still in start-up mode, DLE at scale would be a game changer for lithium brine extraction and open up the floodgates to massive increases in raw material production, especially because it can extract lithium from wastewater at oilfields and geothermal energy projects.
There’s a good bet that these oil and gas sharks have been swimming around similar ideas for a while now.
At the back end of May this year, ExxonMobil paid US$100m for some lithium-rich land in Arkansas, apparently fending off interest from Schlumberger and Equinor – the latter buying a stake in Lithium de France a couple of years ago.
BP, Shell, Eni and Imperial Oil are also looking into the lithium sector. One burning question this Stockhead asks himself is – what’s been taking them so long?
Here’s how Aussie lithium stocks are tracking:
Just 35 lithium stocks saw green today and 43 stayed flat, while an unusually high 70 dropped – mainly due to the ASX having a bad day.
The team at Ragnar are likely to be feasting in the Great Hall for days after offloading its non-core Tullsta nickel asset in Sweden to BHP (ASX:BHP) for a cool $9.8m and buying four lithium and REE projects, also in Sweden.
Ragnar will get a 1% net smelter return on any throughput from Tullsta, while BHP can buy that royalty back off them for a cool $10m if they choose to.
At the same time, it’s also just rattled the tin to raise $1.89m from its shareholders in an entitlement issue – likely to be used to fund initial exploration at its new Swedish tenements.
Huge news for this $8m-capped junior that’s been yearning to bolster its critical minerals portfolio.
The two lithium projects are Halleberget and Bergom near Sweden’s east coast, just north of the Jarkvissle lithium precinct.
Historical exploration figures at Halleberget show outcropping lithium-bearing pegmatites over a 500m strike length showing 0.473% Li2O, 196 ppm Ta and 4.48% Sn.
Bergom has widespread yet underexplored pegmatite outcrops with only one historical assay returning 0.172% Li2O, 95 ppm Ta and 0.38% Sn.
These fledgling projects are considered highly-prospective for discovering lithium pegmatite deposits due to the district representing the western belt of the same belt that contains Kaustinen – the largest lithium deposit in Scandanavia.
“We are excited to expand our exploration portfolio with highly prospective lithium projects, in one of the World’s best mining jurisdictions,” Ragnar exec director Eddie King said.
“We believe Sweden’s lithium potential is still to be unlocked, so we remain very committed to continued success as one of Sweden’s most active and effective explorers for critical minerals.”
Galan has taken a major step towards the construction of Argentina’s next major lithium brine operations, receiving development permits for the first stage of its Hombre Muerto West (HMW) project.
Pre-construction activities are go, including the commissioning of the current camp in preparation to be increased to a 250-person camp, removal of top soil and preliminary testing activities to secure the ground quality at HMW.
This will enable the construction of the ponds for the first stage of the project, expected to begin in the September quarter after the delivery of full construction permits.
Phase 1 of the HMW project will see Galan produce a lithium chloride concentrate, with a DFS just around the corner to outline the economic case for the staged start-up.
A larger Phase2 DFS is expected in August or September this year, which will lay out the runway for Galan to ramp up output to 20,000t of lithium carbonate equivalent a year.
HMW project boasts an impressive mineral resource of 6.6Mt LCE at a grade of 880mg/L Li and is planning a four-phase approach to development that will include its sister project Candelas.
By Phase 4, Galan hopes to be producing 60,000tpa from the combined HMW and Candelas resources.
GL1 is farming-in to Kairos Minerals (ASX:KAI) with an up to $4.6m investment that will see it acquire a 10% stake in the company, which holds exploration licenses for the Roe Hills lithium project – south adjacent to its Manna lithium project.
It’s a strategic investment by GL1, as Kairos will use the funds to explore and develop Roe Hills while the company concentrates on proving up Manna.
Roe Hills consists of 18 tenements across 241km2 that form contiguous licences adjacent to Manna.
Lithium anomalies have been identified through soil geochemical analysis sampling, indicating the potential for significant lithium within the area.
GL1 also bought a two-year exclusive option to explore Baracus Pty Ltd’s E28/3197 tenement immediately east of the Manna project for $250,000.
These moves could be a first step towards a bigger project picture down the line.
At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While Galan Lithium is a Stockhead advertiser, they did not sponsor this article.