Stated Mr. Hugh Aird, CEO of American Lithium Minerals, "We welcome JOGMEC as an experienced and strategic partner for the verification process of the Borate Hills Project."
The Borate Hills Project is a large co-product lithium and boron deposit located 20 miles west of the only producing lithium mine in North America. JOGMEC’s investment will fund completion of an economic pre-feasibility study for the Borate Hills Project. The project features a very large deposit of relatively high grades of 2750 ppm lithium (0.275%) and 10,000 ppm boron (1%).
The Nevada, United States location is strategic for the concentration of US manufacturing requiring lithium, including automobiles, power storage and consumer electronics, as well as a known mining state with excellent road, rail and power infrastructure. American Lithium is also active in grassroots exploration for lithium deposits in the Great Basin of the United States with ten other highly prospective projects in Nevada and Utah.
The Borate Hills Project consists of the North and South Borate Hills Projects. The boron and lithium mineralization is contained in a strata-bound formation that is a combination of a claystone unit and a volcanic tuff with no clay. In the early 1980’s, US Borax drilled the North Borate Hills Deposit and stated the project was the second largest boron deposit in the United States after their current producing borate mine, Kramer Borate in California. Subsequently, US Borax discovered the South Borate Hills Deposit in 1986 and identified a larger project having higher lithium values with an extent of 1.5 miles and thicknesses of up to 1300 feet.
Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) was established on February 29, 2004 pursuant to the Law Concerning the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, which was promulgated on July 26, 2002. JOGMEC integrates the functions of the former Japan National Oil Corporation, which was in charge of securing a stable supply of oil and natural gas, and the former Metal Mining Agency of Japan, which was in charge of ensuring a stable supply of nonferrous metal and mineral resources and implementing mine pollution control measures.
American Lithium Minerals is a U.S.-based mineral exploration company focused on the development of lithium and boron resources in Nevada. The company’s key objective is to develop a world-class lithium projects that will capitalize on surging demand for lithium-ion batteries, particularly for hybrid and electric vehicles. Lithium is a high-priority and strategic mineral for the U.S. The country’s green energy legislation and long-term energy policies depend on developing a vibrant, domestic lithium-ion battery manufacturing sector.
As a result of lithium-ion battery demand for hybrid-electric and electric cars, the increase in demand for lithium carbonate is expected to increase four-fold over the next decade. High demand and low supply has already resulted in an increase in lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) prices. There is currently only one producer of lithium carbonate in the United States, Chemetall’s Clayton Valley Operation. The Great Basin of the United States represents excellent potential for the discovery of new lithium brine deposits and American Lithium Minerals is well positioned for detection with its projects. Lithium is used for batteries, specialty glass, lubricants, pharmaceuticals and lithium alloys.
The Search for Cheaper, Lighter Car Batteries
The Nissan Leaf, an electric car that will go on sale this fall, is priced at $33,000. It’s a $16,500 subcompact car that costs double that thanks to a battery estimated to cost $16,500. The eStar, an electric truck being developed by Navistar, will sell for $150,000 because it will tote a battery that costs at least $75,000. Cost isn’t the only problem. Both the Leaf and the eStar will be limited to 100 miles of driving on a charge.
Both vehicles are powered by the same kind of batteries that power your laptop, ones that shuttle lithium ions back and forth between two electrodes. The unattractiveness of electric vehicles boils down to two facts: Rechargeable batteries cost a lot and weigh a lot. A lithium-ion battery, at its best, packs 110 watt-hours of energy per pound. Gasoline has 6,000 watt-hours per pound. Now, a gasoline motor is inefficient, discarding 85% of the fuel’s energy–losing it to the transmission, wasting it on idling and discharging it as heat. Electric motors waste just 10%, but it still leaves gas with a 9-to-1 weight advantage.
While battery makers are making impressive progress beating down the cost of lithium-ion batteries and improving their performance for cars, battery makers and electric vehicle builders agree that the world needs something new for electric vehicles.
"No one expects the lithium-ion battery to even double [in energy density]," says Winfried Wilcke, a nanoscale-science manager at IBM Research. "And we need to do much better even than that."
Wilcke is the senior scientist in an IBM group that is trying to develop a battery that can do much better–more than seven times better, he hopes, or 800 watt-hours per pound. This would mean that a 125-pound battery would be competing with a 100-pound full gas tank.
The trick is to make use of something light and easily available: air. IBM and others, including carmakers like Toyota and the tiny 20-year-old PolyPlus of Berkeley, Calif., are working on what are known as metal-air batteries. One electrode is a metal (lithium is the most promising), but the other is air. This type of battery would be lighter for the simple fact that it doesn’t have to carry around one of its electrodes. The concept is, says Wilcke, a lot like burning gasoline, which is a dense energy source precisely because the oxygen it marries doesn’t have to be schlepped around.
The benefits of metal-air batteries have been known for decades, and zinc-air batteries are made by the millions to power small devices like hearing aids. But no one has figured out how to make them bigger and rechargeable–that’s why this is still a bit of a science project. Hope now rests with improvements in materials science, computer modeling and techniques used to observe the behavior of materials at the atomic scale.
The goal is a car battery that can push a family of four 500 miles down the road. IBM calls its program the Battery 500 Project. A bill introduced in the Senate recently would pay a $10 million prize to the developer of a commercially viable electrical car battery that can go 500 miles on a charge.
Most batteries are packaged with both the positive electrode (called the cathode during discharge) and the negative electrode (the anode). For a lithium-ion battery the anode, often made of graphite, stores lithium ions when charged. The battery also includes a cathode made from some mixture of lithium and cobalt, iron, oxygen or phosphorus that collects the ions the way a parking garage stores cars. That’s the problem: "The weight of the cars is much less than the weight of the building," says Wilcke. "The useful ions are dwarfed by the cathode material."
In a lithium-air battery the anode is pure lithium, the lightest metal in the periodic table, and almost all is used to produce power. The cathode, instead of some heavy metal mixture, is air. Lithium, extremely reactive, would meet with air and react with the oxygen at a lightweight porous carbon structure. It would create lithium peroxide and release two electrons that are diverted to a circuit to provide electric power.
Whether recharging can happen at all is a question. Wilcke says that his group, using a technique called differential electrochemical mass spectrometry, has proved that recharging is happening by detecting the creation of oxygen from lithium peroxide.
Another difficulty is that the lithium needs to be kept away from water, and air contains water vapor. PolyPlus, a company founded by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists, thinks it has found an answer. It’s a thin ceramic membrane that envelops the lithium and allows lithium ions to pass through but not water molecules. "I don’t see how anyone’s going to commercialize lithium-air without using our technology," says Steven Visco, a founder and chief technology officer of PolyPlus.
Wilcke says that after a year of work IBM’s project is on track to produce a laboratory-size rechargeable battery by 2012 and an electric-vehicle-size demo battery by mid-decade. If you take only short trips, buy a Leaf while you’re waiting.
Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries have become the rechargeable battery of choice in cell phones, computers, hybrid-electric cars and electric cars. GM, Ford, Toyota, Dodge, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Tesla, Saturn and Mercedes-Benz have all announced plans to build Li-ion battery-powered cars. Demand for lithium-powered vehicles is expected to increase fivefold by 2012. The domestic automotive industry must secure a lithium source to supply the next generation of hybrid-electric and electric vehicles. Over 60% of cell phones and 90% of laptops use lithium batteries. The worldwide market for lithium batteries is estimated at over $4 billion per year.