Within this facility, Cemvita will perform pilot testing on both tank and heap bioleaching for lithium extraction from clay or sedimentary materials.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified lithium as one of the most important metals in the energy transition. However, it also noted that the increase in mining operations required to meet demand posed challenges to supply constraints as well as environmental impact. Novel technologies that use new, abundant sources of lithium and have a smaller carbon footprint are necessary for meeting the increasing demand in raw materials without the risk of a supply bottleneck.
Using Industrial Biotechnology, Cemvita intends to revolutionise the mining industry and lower the environmental footprint of mining. Cemvita’s Biomining team works with companies to optimise existing bioprocesses and develop new methods in mineral processing and extractive metallurgy to lower the energy and carbon intensity of the mining industry and enable extraction of the minerals needed for a renewable energy future. Processes that can be enhanced by the latest industrial biotech apply across the entire mining supply chain including mining and mineral pre-processing, in-situ recovery, leaching, beneficiation, remediation, and recycling.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has identified sedimentary as a new, less carbon intensive source for supplying the world's lithium needs. Because of sedimentary's relative abundance in the United States, it will aid in securing the local lithium supply. Carbon intensity of lithium from sedimentary resources is expected to be substantially lower than hard rock operations, and with a lower water use footprint compared with brine resources. Cemvita’s natural organic extraction technology takes sustainability further, opening the opportunity for even lower cost operations such as heap and in-situ leaching. Heap and in-situ leaching provide a substantially lower physical, chemical and energy footprint.
The global lithium market is rapidly growing, and consumers are increasingly buying electric vehicles, which rely on lithium-ion batteries. According to Global Electric Vehicle Outlook, “sales of electric cars doubled in 2021...[and] sales kept rising strongly into 2022.” The latest report on the global lithium market from Grey Views concludes that it “is expected to grow from USD 3.3 Billion in 2020 to USD 5.1 Billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 5.6 percent.”
AZL and Cemvita also plan to work towards deploying this technology for in-situ mining, a process where the ore is not removed from the ground but is extracted in place. This process aims to eliminate much of the ground disturbance and waste generation associated with typical mining operations.
“Our goal is to enable the most environmentally friendly end to end process of mining lithium through the application of our technology” said Charles Nelson, Chief Business Officer of Cemvita. “This includes utilizing cleaner methods of extraction with the option of layering Cemvita’s other beneficial technologies such as CO2 based fuels and decarbonising processing in the mining space.”
Arizona Lithium’s Research Centre, located in Tempe, Arizona, is a facility designed as a commercial pilot to allow both AZL and third-party producers to take large volumes of ore from their prospective mines and test all components of the processing of the ore through the production of various grades of battery grade lithium materials. The facility is planned to be in operation in early 2023.
For additional information: