The market for lithium, a reactive metal with a high heat capacity, is growing rapidly, driven by a rising need for renewable energy (grid storage), strong demand for electric vehicles (EVs), and robust growth in smartphones, tablets, and wearables.
In addition to demand for lithium for batteries, non-battery demand includes a wide variety of applications, including ceramics, specialty chemicals, coolants, and in the life sciences.
As a global critical materials company at the forefront of CO2 reduction trends, AMG is entering the lithium market with an investment of approximately $50 million in the construction of a lithium concentrate (spodumene) plant at its existing Mibra mine in Brazil.
With mining infrastructure already in place at Mibra, and with the recovery of lithium bearing materials from existing and future tailings (by-products of AMG’s profitable tantalum operations at the mine), AMG expects to be the low cost producer of lithium concentrate globally.
Operations are expected to commence in the first quarter of 2018, with planned production of 90,000 MT per year, and an option to expand to 140,000 MT. AMG has been operating a pilot lithium concentrate plant at the site since 2010.
Additionally, after completing affirmative scoping and site locations, AMG has commissioned a pre-feasibility study for the construction of a lithium chemical plant for the downstream conversion of lithium concentrate into lithium hydroxide monohydrate and/or lithium carbonate (chemical grade lithium). Chemical grade lithium is primarily used in batteries and in the fine chemical industry.
Planned production is 14,000 MT of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) per year, expandable to 20,000 MT. The pre-feasibility study will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2016.