Brazil Lithium Production

Brazil produces around 200 MT of Lithium (1065 MT of LCE) (around 0.6% of world output). Brazil has large lithium pegmatite reserves. The application of Brazilian Lithium is mostly in the grease, lubricant and ceramic industries produced on domestic market. Lithium carbonate from Brazil can be also applied into production of primary aluminium. Specification turns out to be too low for battery market (specs in a table below). The national lithium market is under government supervision due to its potential use in nuclear industry. Thus, the industrialization activities and import and export of ores and lithium minerals, as well as organic and inorganic products, such as metallic lithium and lithium alloys, are controlled by the National Commission for Nuclear Energy (Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear – CNEN).

Brazilian Lithium Company (CBL – Companhia Brasileira de Lítio) is the only domestic company that produces lithium compounds. The CBL extracts lithium by underground mining of pegmatites in the municipalities of Araçuaí and Itinga-MG. Subsequently, the spodumene concentrate, produced by concentration in a dense medium, is transferred to a chemical plant in Divisa Alegre, MG, where it is transformed into industrial grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide. [1]

CBL produces spodumene concentrate grading approximately 5% Li 2O.

Historically by processing 7,262 tpy of concentrate grading 5% LiO2 CBL was able to produce 143.5 tpy of lithium carbonate and another 471 tpy of lithium hydroxide.[1]

Lithium occurs in two districts of Brazil: Ceará State and Minas Gerais.  A study of Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais (CPRM) discovered recently new reserves in Vale do Jequitinhonha, northeast of Minas Gerais. This discovery has a potential to augment by 20 times the current estimated Brazilian reserves of 46,000 MT.

 

Brazilian lithium reserves are from pegmatites, specifically spodumene and amblygonite. The national industry uses an acidic route processing, established since the 40’s, which has a high operating cost due the use of soda ash and sulfuric acid, and expensive imported inputs. In order to increase the sustainability of the process and the competitiveness of Brazilian industry in the global market, providing a higher purity product, there is a need to develop new technologies for obtaining these compounds.[1]

In light of it, in 2010, the Brazilian government created the Interministerial Work Group on Strategic Minerals, consisting of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI – Ministério da Ciência Tecnologia e Inovação) and the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME – Ministério das Minas e Energia), to develop proposals for the integration, coordination and improvement of policies, directives and actions pertaining to ores and minerals containing rare earth minerals, lithium, agrominerals and other minerals that are seen as vital for eventual use by National Power and that are required for most advanced technologies. The CETEM, a research unit within the MCTI, has conducted studies of technologies that can be used to exploit national lithium resources and the market dynamics of lithium-based products, especially in the lithium-ion-based battery and accumulator segments, seeking to increase the competitiveness and visibility of the national market.

From new entrants Emerita Resources has an option to acquire the mineral exploration permit immediately adjacent to the CBL mine, and 5 other applications for exploration permits in the area.

“AMG is entering the lithium market with an investment of approximately $50 million in the construction of a lithium concentrate (spodumene) plant at its existing Mibra mine in Brazil.

Leveraging its existing mining infrastructure in place at Mibra (which has been in operation for almost 40 years), AMG’s goal is to be the low-cost producer of lithium concentrate globally. AMG can recover lithium-bearing materials from the existing and future tailings at its profitable tantalum operations at Mibra, with the ore extraction and crushing costs absorbed by the Tantalum operations. (..)

Phase I of the project involves the construction of a lithium concentrate plant to produce 90,000 MT of spodumene per year, with operations expected to commence in the first half of 2018. Phase II would entail increasing the annual production of spodumene from 90,000 MT to 180,000 MT per year. Phase 3 of the project would see AMG expand its operations into downstream market via construction of a lithium chemical plant”[2]

“Crusader Resources is set to exploit lithium in Brazil after establishing a strategic joint venture with mineral processing technology company and lithium explorer Lepidico.

The 50:50 joint venture is expected to result in Lepidico using its patented technology to develop Crusader’s Manga prospect, where significant lithium potential has already been identified from rock chips grading up to 1.8% Li2O.”[3]

“Brazil President Michel Temer issued decrees in July to boost mining royalties, create a new industry regulator and streamline regulations, arguing that efficient and transparent rules would bring in more investment”

“If it was already difficult to attract external investment for mining, the outlook became even more cloudy (after the reforms),” Clovis Torres, an executive director for Vale stated.[4]

 


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