There is more than one way to skin a cat in the Lithium Mine.
Lithium Mine Hard Rock VS Brine Is One Better? The main factors that determine the best lithium mining operations are, cost, climate, geography, and end use.
In lithium mining there is two main approaches. First is the brine mining approach. Second is hard rock mining. Blue Sky Lithium Mine (BLSX) operates both types of mining operations.
Also not all lithium mining is equal and we will take a closer look at both approaches.
- Hard rock – initially cost intensive, produces lithium hydroxide for battery makers.
- Lithium brines – cheaper to develop, produce lithium carbonate.
Global Lithium Mining Brine and Hard Rock Operations By Country
Below is a map showing the major lithium producing countries and the mining processes in operation.
Recently lithium brine mining operations have been reporting lower than normal yields. Some people are blaming the lower yields on global climate change.
As the global demand for lithium “white gold” continues at a production must become as efficient as possible.
Lithium Brine Mining:
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) defines lithium brine mining as follows. Thus lithium brine deposits are accumulations of saline groundwater that are enriched in dissolved lithium. Additionally brine pumps to the surface to evaporate in multiple ponds. With each pond transfer a higher purity of lithium is created.
Once the final product of lithium carbonate is created two things can happen. First lithium carbonate can be sold directly to manufactures. Second the lithium carbonate is further processing into lithium hydroxide. Lithium hydroxide is used to create lithium ion batteries.
Additionally South America is the largest production of lithium brine mining. For example Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia are the largest producers of lithium brine mines. The United States has very small lithium brine mine production in Nevada.
Lithium Mine Hard Rock:
Lithium found in hard rock forms in crystals that are hosted in Pegmatites, when mineral-rich magma intrudes into fissures in continental plates. As the last of this magma cools, water and other minerals become concentrated.
Since bronze age, miners continually optimize hard rock operations to achieve not only extremely efficient production, but also sustainable practices.
Australia is far and away the largest producer of lithium from hard rock. Additionally China is second, and Brazil making a push to be a big player as well.
Why Does This Mater?
When we talk of increasing demand for lithium well into 2030 we must find more efficient and environmentally sound ways to mine.
First Hard-rock lithium has strategic advantages in lithium markets compare to brine deposits.
Extracting lithium concentrate from brine waters involves evaporation in large ponds in unique climates and geography. This process can take over a year or more.
Hard-rock lithium, on the other hand, is easier to explore, mine and process using low-cost mining methods easily that are not ore specific.
Benefits Of Hard Rock VS Brine Lithium Mine
- Greater flexibility: The lithium in hard rock can process to either lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate. Brines initially can only process into carbonate, and then can further process into hydroxide. However this extra processing comes at an additional cost.
- Faster processing: Brines can take a lot longer to process due to the evaporation required making for an inconsistent process compared to hard rock.
- Higher quality: Hard rock typically contains higher lithium content in comparison to most brines.
- Comparable costs: While each mining operation may have its own defining factors regarding profitability, hard-rock operations utilize low-cost traditional mining techniques. For example a hard rock mine can cost half per ton of production as a brine mine.
What to lean more how Blue Sky Lithium Mining is revolutionizing lithium production? Contact us now.
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