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New Lithium Supply - From Pilot Plants to Commercialization; Companies Ramping up for Global Demand of the Future

POINT ROBERTS, Wash. and DELTA, British Columbia, March 04, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Investorideas.com, an investor news source covering lithium stocks, issues a snapshot looking at key trends including growing demand due to EV growth, new extraction technology and strong financials from industry leaders, creating renewed investor optimism.

Lithium has been in high discussion following the strong financials recently reported by lithium giant Albemarle Corporation, setting the stage for a bullish mindset for the lithium sector.

Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (NYSE: SQM) also recently reported their Q4 Earnings call in which Ricardo Ramos, Chief Executive Officer of SQM commented on the company’s 2018 year and the state of lithium moving into 2019.

“Our high-grade sales volume in ESPN, high-grade iodine and high grade average price of lithium contributed to our 2018 results. The Lithium market is surrounded, as you know, by positive news. Full electric vehicle penetration level reached approximately 2%, and these rates are expected to grow probably in the future. Demand growth in 2018 surprised us again, surpassing 27%, and it's expected to grow rates above 20% in 2019,” said Ramos.

As the lithium leaders pave the way for bullish sentiment in the sector, incumbent new sources of lithium are being developed by a select few players in the space advancing lithium brine projects.

E3 METALS CORP. (TSXV: ETMC) (OTC: EEMMF), a lithium development company with a property containing 6.7 Mt LCE inferred mineral resource in Alberta, announced a major milestone in the development of its proprietary extraction process, a key to their future positioning in the market.

Since its inception in 2017, E3 Metals has quadrupled its permit size, put out a maiden resource and subsequently tripled it, developed proprietary Ion Exchange Lithium Extraction Technology and advanced its lithium process closer to commercialization.

The Company is close to piloting its technology which converts oilfield brine into pure high-grade feedstock to be transformed into valuable lithium products, with optionality for hydroxide or carbonate.  

Summarized from the news:  E3 has enhanced performance of its proprietary Ion Exchange Lithium Extraction Technology, achieving higher lithium concentrations of up to 5367 mg/L lithium, compared to the previous level of 1498 mg/L. Average recovery was over 90%, confirming very high efficiency and greater than 99% impurity removal.

E3 Metals’ CEO Chris Doornbos stated, “This increase in concentration using our proprietary Extraction Technology is the key to unlocking the value of our vast, yet lower grade, resource. These results move us a significant step toward supporting E3’s goal of becoming an industry leading, low-cost producer of battery grade lithium products. We have demonstrated the ability to significantly increase our lithium concentration without using additional energy. The higher concentration means less volume to handle downstream from our lithium Extraction Technology and should reduce the energy, inputs and potentially the capital and operating costs required to generate lithium hydroxide. These results continually demonstrate an innovative and robust process developed by the University of Alberta supported by Green Centre Canada, with funding from Alberta Innovates.”

Neo Lithium Corp. (TSXV: NLC) (OTCQX: NTTHF) says it aims to be known as a “prominent new name in lithium brine exploration by virtue of its high quality 3Q Project and experienced team.”

The Company recently announced that the lithium carbonate pilot plant built by the Instituto de Investigaciones Tecnologicas from Universidad de Concepcion, Chile has successfully arrived in Fiambala, Catamarca, Argentina. The Company’s engineers have started reassembling the Plant and expect to have it fully operational in late February for its Tres Quebradas lithium brine project in Catamarca Province, Argentina.

The Plant was previously successfully tested with synthetic brine in Chile and is going to start using brine from the 3Q Project, concentrated approximately to 4% lithium from 3Q Project pilot evaporation ponds to start pilot scale production of lithium carbonate at the Plant. Currently the designed annual capacity of the pilot ponds is over 500 tonnes of approximate 4% lithium brine per year, and the Plant has a designed capacity of 50 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year.

Lithium Americas Corp. (TSX: LAC) (NYSE: LAC), advancing its Cauchari-Olaroz lithium brine project in Jujuy, Argentina and Thacker Pass lithium claystone project in Nevada, USA to production just reported temporary disruptions in Argentina due to heavy rainfall. 

Also included in the update; “Following the release of the Preliminary Feasibility Study in August 2018, through development of a pilot plant in Reno, Nevada, the Company is considering the production of lithium hydroxide directly from lithium sulphate to provide added flexibility. Commissioning of the pilot plant is underway, with testing and optimization expected to commence in the near term.”

From pilot plants to full production, the lithium sector is ramping up for long term global demand. Incumbent lithium brine companies will be able to compete if they can keep their costs down and advance their extraction technologies, readying themselves for the EV highways of the future.

Investor Ideas directory of lithium stocks: mining stocks directory and cleantech stock directories, relating to batteries. 

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