Compass Minerals has announced the success of the conversion testing of its sustainable lithium brine resource into both lithium carbonate and battery-grade lithium hydroxide. The testing was performed by a third party, Veolia Energy, which used a proven, commercially viable conversion process. The company stated that at a concentration of >56.5% lithium hydroxide monohydrate, the conversion sample meets established battery-grade specifications for the U.S. domestic EV and energy storage markets.
Compass Minerals said that it believes that this will help enable the U.S. to domestically produce advanced battery materials and support the growing domestic EV fleet. Compass Minerals plans to enter the market with a battery-grade lithium hydroxide product by 2025. Kevin S. Crutchfield, president and CEO of Compass Minerals, gave a statement:
“When we first announced the identification of a readily available, 2.4 million ton lithium brine resource, we emphasized that we are evaluating multiple paths forward for development, potential partnerships, and product selection to ensure optimal shareholder value. While that work continues, our progress to date puts us firmly on track for market entry with a battery-grade lithium product by 2025.
“As we continue to assess potential DLE technology partners and commercial opportunities, we remain committed to responsible stewardship of this exciting and sustainable resource. We look forward to providing future updates as we achieve additional milestones in the coming months.”
This sounds like an amazing achievement. However, I am a bit curious as to how this is sustainable. Is the conversion process itself sustainable?
In July, Chemistry World noted that lithium-ion batteries have their own challenges with sustainability and that it could create a secondary environmental disaster unless batteries can be made in a more sustainable way. This is one reason why battery recycling is so important and critical. The article also pointed out something Elon Musk has said often and that is lithium is not scarce. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there’s a total global resource of around 80 million tonnes and that number is rising. However, the problem with lithium is extraction.
SAMCO Technologies, which focuses on water, wastewater, and purification mostly, explained in detail the two major types of lithium extraction. There’s the conventional lithium brine extraction which uses a lot of water and takes several months to years to complete. And then there’s the hard rock or spodumene lithium extraction. SAMCO also gave details into other lithium extraction processes, which include recycled brines from energy plants, seawater, recovered oil field brine, and recycled electronics.
If Compass Minerals found a way to extract lithium from brine in a less water-intensive and sensitive way, and convert it into high-grade battery materials, that sounds like an amazing accomplishment and I hope we can all learn more about the process in the future.
The Foundation To Our Quality Of Life Is The Mining Industry
Many people don’t realize just how dependent we are upon the mining industry for our quality of life. I’m not just talking about myself and my small collection of minerals. I’m talking about how the mining industry is the very foundation upon which we live our lives.
For example, I wouldn’t be writing this without my computer, which has a battery. I wouldn’t be able to scroll through TikTok on my phone without the battery and other hard technology in the phone. Dietary supplement industries wouldn’t be able to exist without an industry that mines and extracts the needed minerals in large volume.
Iron, zinc, fluoride, phosphorus, calcium, sodium, copper, magnesium, and manganese are all types of dietary supplements but are also minerals. Although these are naturally in the foods we eat, just think for a moment where these extra minerals come from. Halite, what you know to be salt, is mined. (I don’t advise licking your salt lamps.)
My point is that we are highly dependent on both the mining industry and the mineral world for our quality of life. The Minerals Educations Coalitions says it best:
“If you really take a moment to think about it, look around to observe the objects you are surrounded by which are not manufactured by plant-based resources. From the cement you walk on to the screen you are reading, our world and our way of life depends on the products of modern mining practices.”
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