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Neo Lithium expands and optimizes pilot ponds at its 3Q lithium brine project in Argentina

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Neo Lithium Corp (CVE:NLC) (OTCQX:NTTHF) (FRA:NE2) has provided an update on the pilot pond expansion and operations at its Tres Quebradas lithium brine project (3Q Project) in Catamarca Province, Argentina.

The company said the operational work continues to demonstrate its single-minded commitment to project-level advancements towards operations in the fastest time possible.

Neo Lithium said it has been pumping brine to evaporation pilot ponds since late 2016 and two sets of ponds have been built. 

READ: Neo Lithium hires consultants to help develop a sustainability program for its 3Q Lithium Project in Argentina

The first set of pilot ponds were 1:1,000 scale and were built in the alluvial fan near the salar. Operations in these pilot ponds were discontinued in 2018 and a new set of pilot ponds were built in the core of the salar. 

The new pilot ponds were larger, 1:600 scale, with a different design, and had a thickener system to separate the calcium chloride crystals at the end of the process and a physical parameter 24/7 automated monitoring system. 

The company said these pilot ponds operated for three years and produced concentrated brine to run all the experimental tests and produced an excess of 20 tonnes of concentrated brine, equivalent to about 2 tonnes of lithium carbonate that remains to be processed through the pilot plant. Since the capacity of the pilot ponds exceeds the pilot plant for now, the concentrated brine is stored until the pilot plant starts to run continuously.

Currently, Neo Lithium said it is taking one step further in optimizing the pilot pond system by building 20% more pond capacity and changing the initial design to emulate the future operation to final pond design. This step will firm up operations and ramp-up times in the future mine and result in specific employee training towards the operation of production scale ponds. 

“We also confirmed with this operation that the ponds will take the raw brine from the wells from 1000 mg/l Lithium to 4000 mg/l Lithium in 200 days by solar evaporation in the pre-concentration ponds,” the company said in a statement. “From this composition the brine achieves the final 3.6% Lithium concentration in less than 60 days thanks to a process called ‘Reactive Dehydration.’” 

Reactive Dehydration is a process whereby water is lost by crystallization of calcium chloride with six molecules of water as the main driver, rather than evaporation. The process is so efficient at cold temperatures in the salar that it is expected that less ponds would be required than those described in the pre-feasibility study (PFS). 

The company noted that this system accelerates dramatically the time of the brine in the ponds and is unique to the 3Q Project due to the chemical composition of the brine.

“As we get closer to completing the Definitive Feasibility Study, we move our pilot system to a final piloting system that is efficient, lower cost, consumes no fresh water or reagents and requires less capital cost to produce than other comparable projects,” said Gabriel Pindar, COO and director of Neo Lithium.

The pilot pond expansion is also designed to deliver the volumes of lithium concentrate required by the system to have the pilot plant operating on a continuous basis. 

Contact the author: [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter @PatrickMGraham

Story by ProactiveInvestors


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