European Lithium quickly kicks into gear at Wolfsburg project
European Lithium (ASX:EUR), formerly Paynes Find Gold, announced on Monday morning that it had appointed Dorfner Anzaplan, to undertake metallurgical test work aimed at optimising the process design for its Wolfsburg lithium project located in Austria.
This represents an important phase in bringing the project into production from a number of perspectives. Not only will it confirm the most suitable technical processing treatment for the Wolfsburg project, but it will also determine the potential for recovering by-products such as feldspar, quartz and mica which could potentially be sold into Central European markets for use in the burgeoning glass and ceramics industries in that region.
As management pointed out, the end markets that can be targeted by EUR are very different to those open to producers or emerging producers in Western Australia and Canada where end markets for these by-products don’t exist.
The historical owners of the Wolfsburg project, Austrian State company Minerex, conducted extensive metallurgical studies in the 1980s by the Mineral Research Laboratory of the State University of North Carolina (MRL).
This work concluded that a 6% lithium dioxide spodumene concentrate could be obtained from the Wolfsburg pegmatites and marketable specifications of feldspar, quartz and mica could be recovered, such that 74% of the ore treated was saleable.
Since the original test work there have been a number of technological developments that could be applicable to the Wolfsburg deposit including the use of sensor-based/optical sorting to separate the dark waste rock from the light-coloured pigment type.
If EUR were able to apply this separation process to ore sourced from its Wolfsburg project it could minimise waste dilution in the ore feed to the concentrator, effectively maximising lithium grades.
Management said that Dense Media Separation (DMS) was another technology that could be applicable to the Wolfsburg deposit. This represented a relatively simple process of crushing, screening and DMS in order to obtain a spodumene concentrate.
The establishment of such a facility would represent a small and low capital cost facility. Once again, by-products from the DMS processing technique could be marketed to the glass and ceramic producers in Europe that are currently importing spodumene concentrate from Australia and lithium carbonate from South America.
As this is an early play, any uptake from marketing activities is yet to be determined and as such if you require further information about this stock you should seek professional financial advice.
If the company were successful in putting one of these strategies into place it would be a significant development from a financial perspective as it would generate cash flow while the rest of the processing facilities is being constructed.
The aforementioned scenarios will be investigated by Dorfner Anzaplan and a decision made on the optimum processing procedure. Another task being undertaken by the consultant will be the analysis of two 4 tonne samples extracted from pegmatite veins in host rocks at Wolfsburg.
Samples and specifications of the spodumene concentrate and by-products will also be used to present to potential off-takers. EUR chairman, Tony Sage said, “We are focused on the aggressive development of the project, and with the fundraising and ASX listing successfully completed, the company can concentrate on the potential to fast track production”.
Indeed, management set fairly tight timelines for the consultant with the expectation that a pilot plant will be in operation to produce larger quantities of spodumene concentrate which will be used for downstream testing of the conversion to lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide for both technical and battery use by the end of the first quarter of calendar year 2017.
With Europe being the second largest consumer of lithium behind China and recent announcements by Samsung, Nissan, Tesla and a number of high profile motor vehicle producers that are considering plans to build lithium battery plants in Europe, the likely uptick in demand for battery grade lithium products for local markets augurs well for EUR’s future.