General Motors just announced it will invest in lithium technology startup EnergyX as it expands into mining, marking the automaker’s latest effort to secure a long-term supply of the metals used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
Lithium, copper, nickel, and other minerals are in high demand as automakers electrify their fleets worldwide. By the end of the decade, demand will exceed supply, spurring interest in alternate manufacturing methods.
Privately-held EnergyX is one of several companies exploring direct lithium extraction (DLE) methods that could help GM purify metal for its Ultium battery packs from brine that the mining industry has mostly overlooked in favor of evaporation ponds and open-pit mines.
GM scientists will help EnergyX commercialize DLE technology. GM says that DLE could be the most efficient way to get lithium out of brine.
The automaker intends to lead a $50 million Series B round of financing for EnergyX and contribute to its future expansion in North and South America.
GM may be able to skip lithium refining, a key supply-chain bottleneck, if EnergyX’s brine-to-lithium metal process works.
In January, GM spent $650 million to become Lithium Americas Corp largest stakeholder. The company will invest in privately held Controlled Thermal Resources Ltd. (CTR) in 2021 to construct a southern California geothermal brine project employing DLE technology.
GM’s investment in EnergyX comes after Bolivian regulators prevented the company from participating in a DLE selection process last year. EnergyX is building demonstration sites in Argentina, Chile, California, Arkansas, and Utah. Potential clients would test EnergyX’s technology with brine from their acreage before signing a development agreement.
Producing High Purity, Battery Grade Lithium Products
Another company that has created a proprietary Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technique is E3 Lithium Ltd (TSXV:ETL) (OTCQX:EEMMF), a mineral property resource company, focused on the development of its significant mineral resource in Alberta, Canada.
E3 Lithium is moving forward with the construction of its field pilot project, which is being designed to demonstrate ion-exchange direct lithium extraction technology in real-world operating conditions.t. E3 intends to considerably derisk its Alberta lithium project by demonstrating the process at a pilot scale as it moves closer to the projected commercial scale of 20,000 tonnes/year of lithium hydroxide monohydrate production.
The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) recently authorized E3 Lithium‘s Facility Application for its 2023 field pilot plant. The AER license allows E3 to construct and operate the equipment needed to execute the direct lithium extraction pilot, which is set to begin operations in Q3 2023.
The prototype plant will be located in E3‘s Clearwater Project Area, east of the Town of Olds, at the first well drilled in E3‘s 2022 first drill program. On February 2, 2023, E3 released the parameters and timing for the field pilot.
The field pilot is on track, and site building and pre-operations will start at the beginning of May. E3 has been developing many alternative flow sheets, and the pilot will examine multiple lithium extraction processes to find the optimum commercial design. More information, including the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the process systems, will be made available prior to pilot operations.
Throughout 2023, E3 will provide updates on its field pilot.
E3 Lithium recently upgraded its mineral resource to Measured and Indicated (M&I), which includes 6.6 million tonnes (Mt) of measured lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) and 9.4 Mt of indicated LCE, for a total of 16.0 Mt M&I.
According to data from Natural Resources Canada, Canada presently has 3.2 Mt of M&I lithium resources in hard rock deposits meaning E3’s 16.0 Mt of LCE is Canada’s largest M&I mineral resource.
E3 Lithium recently released its fourth quarter and 2022 financial results. Last year’s highlights included receiving $27 million from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, completing a $5 million strategic agreement with Imperial Oil, and signing a memorandum of understanding with Pure Lithium, which produced a lithium metal battery using E3‘s lithium concentrate.
Over the past year, E3 Lithium successfully manufactured its first batch commercial scale sorbent, which is essential to the success and commercialization of its ion-exchange DLE technology, and drilled the first two brine production wells at the Clearwater Project to evaluate lithium and sampled three wells, confirming the aquifer’s producibility and lithium concentrations in its proposed production area.
The Company has filed its E3 Lithium 43-101 Technical Report: Lithium Resource Estimate, Bashaw District Project, Central Alberta.
Featured Image @ Depositphotos
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