Lithium Companies Test Innovative Extraction Methods in Argentina’s Salt Flats

The global lithium industry is closely watching a project in Argentina’s northern mountains, where French miner Eramet is attempting to use an innovative technique called direct lithium extraction (DLE) to produce the metal essential for electric vehicle batteries.

Unlike traditional lithium production methods that rely on large evaporation ponds, Eramet’s DLE process aims to extract lithium much more quickly from the brine found deep underground in Argentina’s salt flats. This could be crucial as 70% of the world’s lithium is found in brine, rather than rock or clay.

Eramet’s $870 million project in Salta province puts Argentina, the world’s fourth-largest lithium producer, in the spotlight as the country prepares to see new production come online in the coming months from mining giants like Rio Tinto, Posco, and Chinese firms Zijin and Ganfeng. This new capacity could about double Argentina’s lithium output, narrowing the gap with top producer Chile.

The exact timing for Eramet’s ramp-up remains uncertain, as the company CEO acknowledges the complexity of tailoring the DLE process to the specific brine deposit. The success of Eramet’s efforts is being closely watched by competitors in the U.S., Chile, and elsewhere who are also working to commercialize DLE technology.

If successful, DLE could be a game-changer for the lithium industry, providing a cleaner, faster, and more cost-effective way to produce the metal needed for the global transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy. However, industry experts caution that it is still too early to say with certainty whether Eramet’s strategy will pan out.

Lithium Companies Test Innovative Extraction Methods in Argentina’s Salt Flats
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