Quebec City’s Nemaska Lithium Inc. (TSXV:NMX) (OTCQX:NMKEF) has obtained issuance of Canadian Patent No. 2,874,917, which describes its proprietary process of preparing lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate from spodumene sources using membrane electrolysis.
Nemaska has also received a notice of allowance for the corresponding U.S. patent application (No. 14/404,466).
Nemaska intends to supply lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate to the emerging lithium battery market, which is expanding due to the popularity of electric vehicles, cell phones, tablets and consumer electronics.
“Our patent portfolio encompasses a number of unique processes that we have developed throughout the technology chain,” said Jean-François Magnan, Technical Manager at Nemaska Lithium. “In addition to developing the overall process, we have done a lot of work on the impurity removal systems which allow us to produce one the purest lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate products without the costly polishing steps that our competitors require. This ensures that we will produce lithium compound products at low costs and at very high purity. I believe these two critical factors will enable to capture a significant share of the growing lithium compounds market.”
Last month, Nemaska completed the acquisition of the former Resolute Forest Products’ Laurentide plant in Shawinigan, Quebec, agreeing to a purchase price of $2 million, with the first $300,000 tranche placed in escrow at that time, and the second $1.7 million tranche to be paid after obtaining construction permits for the Commercial Hydromet Plant and Nemaska Lithium’s Phase 1 Lithium Hydroxide Plant.
Last week, Nemaska received the first $5 million tranche, of a total $10 million promised, from Ressources Québec Inc., a subsidiary of Investissement Québec, acting as a mandatary for the government of Québec, for construction of the Phase 1 Plant, total costs for which are estimated at $38 million over the next two years.
Nemaska has spent the past four years testing the conversion of lithium sulphate into lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate, and demonstrating the commercial viability of electrolysis-based technologies through pilot plant testing and at supplier facilities.
Spodumene concentrate mined at Nemaska’s Whabouchi facility will be shipped to the Shawinigan processing plant, to be transformed into high purity lithium hydroxide and carbonate using the now patented methods developed by the company.
Simon Thibault, Nemaska’s Director of Environmental and Social Responsibility, estimates that the facilities will create approximately 100 skilled jobs in Shawinigan.
The main benefits of producing a very high purity, low cost lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate using membrane electrolysis technologies are to deliver low and predictable operating costs for lithium hydroxide monohydrate and lithium carbonate, as well as being environmentally friendly relative to other mining operations.