Tesla recently filed a new patent related to the acid-free saline lithium extraction process, which Elon Musk talked about during Battery Day in September 2020. This provoked a reaction from a Canadian miner who has a development project near Giga Nevada.
Lithium is a strategic metal for the lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle industry. Therefore, means of economically extracting the metal from various lithium sources are important to reduce the cost of batteries and electric vehicles. The dominant lithium sources commonly used for mining are lithium brines due to the low cost associated with lithium extraction from these sources. However, the ever-increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries makes it necessary to explore other lithium sources.
The patent "Selective extraction of lithium from clay minerals," states that extracting lithium from ore using sodium chloride is an environmentally friendlier way to obtain the metal, compared to currently used techniques such as acid leaching. It also allows for higher recoveries. In essence, this method allows extracting lithium from clay mineral and compositions by mixing a cation source with the clay mineral, performing a high-energy mill of the clay mineral, and performing a liquid leach to obtain a lithium-rich leach solution.
Tesla's active work on methods of extracting lithium and their desire to mine it attracted the attention of the Canadian miner Spearmint Resources. The company issued a press release reminding Tesla that they have a mine near Giga Nevada. Spearmint is developing a Clayton Valley lithium clay project there to supply the local market. The company has already received a technical report on the project, which includes a maiden resource estimate of 815,000 indicated tonnes and 191,000 inferred tonnes for a total of 1,006,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). In addition, the company expects that additional targeted drilling could increase this initial estimate.
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