Lithium is an essential component of modern batteries. With a growing electric vehicle market, demand for lithium is accelerating. While current (as of 2021) supply is sufficient, demand is expected to increase tenfold by 2030.
Lithium is traditionally obtained with two methods: open pit mining, or refining in evaporation ponds. Australia is the largest open pit mining lithium producer, and South American production comes mostly from evaporation ponds in salar basins. Both methods raise environmental concerns, from overburden removal in the case of open pit mines to fresh water consumption and toxic sludge in evaporation ponds.
New technologies revolve around direct lithium extraction (DLE) from underground brines, or deployment of reusable ion-exchange beads for in-situ lithium extraction.
Deposits in WCSB
Lithium is found in hypersaline brines lodged in geological formation throughout the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. Deep depleted reservoirs, with advanced water invasion, contain high lithium mineralization, upwards of 50 mg/liter. Several projects in Canada propose direct lithium extraction (DLE) without the use of evaporation ponds. Proponents include E3 Metals, Prairie Lithium and Lithiumbank.
Canadian Lithium Operators
A few Canadian companies are operating or planning lithium development projects in Canada and overseas, using traditional extraction and new technologies:
Direct extraction from brines (DLE)
- E3 Metals is based in Calgary and plans brine extraction from the Leduc reservoir in Central Alberta, with proprietary direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology.
- Grounded Lithium Corp, based in Calgary, explores for lithium-rich brines in Western Canada
- Highwood Asset Management, a former oil producer based in Calgary, applied for Lithium mineral rights in the Peace River Arch area of North-Western Alberta and currently (2021) evaluates direct lithium extraction.
- LithiumBank is planning direct extraction from reservoir brines in hotspots of high lithium concentration in Alberta and British Columbia legacy wells, with existing mineral rights around Sturgeon Lake in North-Central Alberta (Fox Creek, Kakwa, Simonette, Valhalla, Swan Hills and Nipisi).
- Prairie Lithium, based in Regina, SK, is a large lithium mineral holder in Saskatchewan’s Williston Basin, and plans direct lithium extraction from reservoir brines through their patented Plix technology.
- Standard Lithium Ltd., based in Vancouver, produced lithium directly from reservoir water/brine in Lanxess, Arkansas, USA.
- Pristine Lithium Corp. is a lithium brine exploration and development company with assets in Saskatchewan
- Summit Nanotech, based in Calgary, is not a miner or operator, but a technology company that develops green lithium extraction processes, dubbed denaLi.
Open pit mining
- Critical Elements Lithium Corporation, based in Montreal, mines lithium through traditional processing technology in Northern Quebec, with advanced stage exploration in the open pit mining Rose Lithium-Tantalum project.
- Rock Tech Lithium, based in Vancouver, owns and develops a spodumene project in Georgia Lake, Ontario, and produced 1.1 metric tons of spodumene with 6.2% lithium oxide content, produced with a nitrate-gypsum refining process.
- Vision Lithium, based in Val-d’Or, Quebec, operates an exploration permit in Godslith, Northern Manitoba, where it intersected a 15 meter thick spodumene pegmatite containing 1.5% Li2O.
- Global Battery Metals, based in Vancouver, explores for Lithium in Leinster, Ireland.
- Sigma Lithium Resources, registered in Vancouver, mines lithium in Grota do Cirilo Project in Minas Gerais, Brazil, from spodumene ore. A demonstration pilot operates since 2018, with plans to ramp up production. The company has a “take-or-pay” agreement with South Korea’s LG Energy Solution.
- Millennial Lithium Corp based in Vancouver, mines lithium brine, as of 2021 operating a pilot plant in Pastos Grandes, Argentina, with several brine extraction wells and an evaporation pond, with expected production in 2022/23. Millennial was acquired in September 2021 by Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology.
- Neo Lithium Corp, based in Toronto, operates a pond pilot and lithium carbonate pilot plant in Fiambalá, Argentina.
- Lithium Americas, based in Vancouver, operates evaporation ponds for lithium extraction projects in Cauchari-Olaroz, Argentina and Thacker Pass in Nevada, USA and expects lithium production by Q3/2022.
- Lithium Energy Exploration, based in Toronto, holds a portfolio of assets in the Antofalla salar in Argentina’s Catamarca province.
- Wealth Minerals Ltd, basedin Vancouver, owns a concession in the Atacama salar in Chile.
Chinook Consulting assists lithium operators with the same suite of services catered to the oil and gas industry:
- Geological Wellsite Supervision
- Drilling and Completions
- Reservoir studies
- Laboratory services