Lithium recovery from lepidolite


Electric cars and their batteries are on the top of the public agenda; Elon Musk’s high-profile Tesla (his company and his just-launched-into-space car) and the need to decarbonise the world’s economy have turned the public’s eye into the issue of lithium batteries, normally the realm of engineers and mining investors (how many of those in the general public know how batteries work and what are they made of?) .

Portugal is endowed in lithium, present in several minerals in the country’s pegmatite districts. Lepidolite (a pink mica – just follow the link for a nice lepidolite picture in this blog) is one of the lithium-containing minerals, until now mostly used in Portugal in special ceramics. Foreign junior miners have recently fired up a quest for lithium in Portuguese lithium-mineralised pegmatite deposits, contributing to an even higher high-profile in Portuguese media – also check the Portuguese Government’s task force report on lithium.

A team of Portuguese researchers from Instituto Superior Técnico and LNEG has just published an article on the “Optimization of an innovative approach involving mechanical activation and acid digestion for the extraction of lithium from lepidolite.” The team is composed by Nathália Viecel, Carlos A. Nogueira, Manuel F. C. Pereira, Fernando O. Durão, Carlos Guimarães and Fernanda Margarido.

Abstract
The recovery of lithium from hard rock minerals has received increased attention given the high demand for this element. There- fore, this study optimized an innovative process, which does not require a high-temperature calcination step, for lithium extraction from lepidolite. Mechanical activation and acid digestion were suggested as crucial process parameters, and experimental design and response-surface methodology were applied to model and optimize the proposed lithium extraction process. The promoting effect of amorphization and the formation of lithium sulfate hydrate on lithium extraction yield were assessed. Several factor combinations led to extraction yields that exceeded 90%, indicating that the proposed process is an effective approach for lithium recovery.

International Journal of Minerals, Metallurgy and Materials
Volume 25, Number 1, January 2018
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12613-018-1541-7

(Yes, some on the team are old colleagues and friends of mine; nonetheless, congrats on the work done).

Author: Luís Chambel

Exploration & Research Mining Engineer, MSc Engineering Geology, MBA, PhD European Engineer -EUR ING; Euro Geologist - EURO GEOL

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