Galaxy Resources Managing Director, Mr Iggy Tan, said it was fitting that Galaxy’s lithium carbonate facility would be constructed and completed within 2010, the Year of the Tiger.
"According to the Chinese Zodiac, the tiger is a symbol of strength, power, leadership and audacity – all qualities which Galaxy Resources embodies as it seeks to gain a first mover advantage and capitalise on the growing demand for battery grade lithium carbonate," he said.
"Galaxy is committed to forging strong relationships with all of our project stakeholders including loan syndicate partners and key suppliers of input materials for the lithium carbonate processing facility."
The Company’s rapid progress through the Chinese approvals process has been helped by Galaxy’s strong working relationship with the Zhangjiagang Free Trade Zone. The Ceremony was attended by Party Secretary of Zhangjiagang City, Mr Qin Huang and Mayor of the Free Trade Zone, Mr Xu Zhongao.
Mr Tan said that the next major milestone would be the construction permit which was expected to be granted shortly ahead of the formal commencement of construction in April.
Once complete, the Jiangsu Plant will produce 17,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium carbonate per annum to supply end users across the Asia Pacific region.
"Progress has already been made on the Jiangsu site with the Zhangjiagang authorities allowing preparatory works to be conducted over the past few months," Mr Tan said.
"Detailed design work is being finalised by Hatch, with commissioning and plant start-up targeted for the final quarter of 2010."
Galaxy Resources (ASX: GXY) is an emerging mining and chemical company focusing on lithium and tantalum production. Galaxy is at an advanced stage of developing its Mt Cattlin Lithium Project (hard rock spodumene) in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia.
The Project encompasses a mine and minerals plant which will produce 137,000 tpa of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate. Galaxy intends to add value to the Mt Cattlin Project by establishing its own downstream lithium processing facilities in China.
The Company is finalising plans to establish a lithium carbonate chemical facility in Jiangsu Province, producing 17,000 tpa of lithium carbonate.
Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant (Zhangjiagang, China)
Galaxy is developing a wholly owned battery grade lithium carbonate plant in China to maintain complete control over the production and quality of the Company’s products and to secure lower production costs. The main attributes of the location in China are a tighter supply chain and proximity to cement plants (residue disposal) and detergent plants for sales of sodium sulphate by-product.
The plant will be operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of GXY that is a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in China. Production will use a well-proven production process that is enhanced through process automation and careful selection of high grade reagents. The plant will have capacity to produce 17,000tpa of lithium carbonate that is suitable for use in manufacturing battery cathode materials.
The Company’s lithium carbonate plant will be located in the Yangtze River International Chemical Industrial Park of the Zhangjiagang Free Trade Zone in the Jiangsu Province of China less than 1 hour northwest of Shanghai. The Company’s spodumene feed will be shipped from Esperance and unloaded at the Zhangjiagang port at a wharf that is less than 500m from the Lithium Carbonate Plant. The chemical park has in excess of 3,379 enterprises including 40 international companies such as Dow Chemical, Dow Corning, Chevron Philips, Dupont, Unocal, Wacker, Ineos, Asahi Kasei, Sumitomo, Mitsui Chemical and Vopak.
All the necessary infrastructure is available in the Yangtze River International Chemical Industrial Park. Key utilities including water supply, sewage treatment, power supply, steam, telecommunications, industrial gas and fire-fighting facilities are available at the Company’s site. The location of the site that has been selected for the plant also provides access to supply of sulphuric acid, soda ash and caustic soda from neighbouring producers.
Lithium Carbonate Production
The following key process steps are involved in the conversion of spodumene to lithium carbonate:
• Sulphating roast and leaching
• Lithium carbonate crystallisation
• Sodium Sulphate crystallisation
Decrepitation is essential for the hydrometallurgical processing of spodumene ore. Decrepitation in a rotary calcining kiln changes the crystal phase from the alpha to the beta form. This enables the lithium in the ore to be amenable to displacement by sodium. Moist spodumene concentrate averaging 6% Li2O and 5% moisture is reclaimed from an open stockpile area and is fed to a rotary kiln. Decrepitation takes place at 1,070 °C – 1,090°C.
The kiln product consists of a granular mix of beta-spodumene and unreacted gangue minerals, which upon leaving the kiln is cooled to about 100°C in a fluid bed cooler. The cooled kiln product is then milled in a dry grinding mill to reduce the material to below 200μm in preparation for the subsequent process step and pneumatically conveyed to a storage silo.
Dry, milled beta spodumene is thoroughly mixed with concentrated sulphuric acid in a pug mixer. The mixed material from the pug mixer is fed directly into the sulphating kiln and dry material exiting the sulphating kiln is gravity fed directly into the leach tank.
Leaching and Residue Removal
The solids from the sulphating kiln are leached in spent liquor and make up water. An optimal pulp density is maintained to maximise the lithium concentration at crystallisation as well as to ensure that the solubility limit of lithium sulphate during leaching is not exceeded. The lithium sulphate / residue slurry exiting the leach tank is pumped to a thickener and filter system to separate the gangue solids from the process liquor.
The precipitation circuit is designed to remove magnesium and calcium impurities from the lithium sulphate solution and present a clear filtrate to the lithium carbonate crystallisation stage. The process liquor is then passed through a media filter to polish the liquor stream.
Lithium carbonate is crystallised with the addition of soda ash and the increase in temperature of the system. The lithium carbonate slurry from the second crystalliser reports to the lithium thickener where the lithium carbonate crystals are allowed to settle to allow separation from the spent liquor.
Product Recovery and Packaging
The slurry containing the lithium carbonate crystals is filtered and the filter cake is dried in a rotary drum drier. The dried product is then conveyed to a storage silo in the bagging facility.
Sodium Sulphate (Na2SO4) Crystallisation
Sodium sulphate from the process solution is crystallised in an evaporative crystalliser system. The sodium sulphate slurry formed in the sulphate crystallisation stage reports to the sodium sulphate thickener where the solids are allowed to settle and then underflow to a vacuum belt filter. The sodium sulphate is sold as a by-product to the detergent industry.
Reagent Supply is Secured Locally
The key reagents for the sulphate process for lithium carbonate production are soda ash and sulphuric acid.
The Company signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with its future neighbour, Two Lions (Zhangjiagang) Fine Chemicals Co., Ltd. to supply 38,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid per annum for 15 years. The supply arrangement also includes supply of sodium hydroxide and steam and access to modern automated bulk mineral unloading facilities.
Galaxy has also secured a supply of soda ash with the Jiangsu Huachang Chemical Co. Limited (Huachang). Huachang will supply 40,000 tonnes of soda ash (Na2CO3) per annum for 15 years.
Battery electric cars are becoming more and more attractive with the advancement of new battery technology (Lithium Ion) that have higher power and energy. Lithium-ion batteries are 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than NiMH batteries used in hybrid electric vehicles.