Lithium Australia has been awarded a grant from the Australian federal government’s Co-operative Research Centre Projects to support the research and development of its proprietary LieNA® process. 

The $1.3 million grant will be used to advance the company’s LieNA® technology that can recover lithium from fine spodumene in waste and tailings streams.

Current spodumene processing methods can result in lithium recovery rates as low as 50 per cent. 

Lithium Australia has been collaborating with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) in developing the technology which involves a caustic digestion process, followed by acid leaching.

LieNA® consists of a caustic digestion process, followed by acid leaching to recover the desired lithium chemical. Importantly, LieNA® does not require a roasting stage. Lithium Australia and ANSTO have already completed extensive bench-scale test work on the LieNA® technology, with final recovery of lithium reported as more than 85 per cent.

Lithium Australia considers LieNA® a novel invention and has made patent applications seeking protection of this intellectual property.

The LieNA® process has the potential to not only expand current hard-rock lithium resources and reduce mining costs but also improve the sustainability of spodumene production and the subsequent manufacture of lithium chemicals.

Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said LieNA® has the potential to commercially recover lithium from fine and contaminated material discharged to tailings by the spodumene producers that currently achieve poor recoveries.

“If LieNA® can improve the viability of hard-rock lithium mining operations, its effects will be far-reaching,” he said.

“We applaud the federal government for recognising the significance of this project and welcome input from lithium producers who could benefit from a positive outcome for this research.

“We appreciate the considerable contributions our partners will make and the expertise they can provide.”

Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said this federal government funding aims to promote the development of critical minerals and cement Australia’s position as a critical minerals powerhouse, grow the economy and create new jobs.

Image: Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin, The West Australian.