On the back of increasing demand for e-mobility and electrical grid storage, lithium has recently emerged as one of the key high-tech materials. The extraordinary fast-growing request for lithium with limited supply response, made lithium prices reaching its zenith in 2016. The resourcefulness of mining companies was asked!
MGX Minerals Inc. from Vancouver, British Columbia, recognised oil extraction wastewater as valuable resource, as it contains lithium carbonates - among other minerals, such as rare earth elements (REE). In a trial, the company collected such water and extracted the lithium successfully (~70%), which had a nice side effect of clean water as byproduct.
The company expects to have the extraction technique commercially available by the end of this year – and customers are already queuing in long lines! One of them will be surely Elon Musk, whose battery in a Model S needs about 45 kilograms of lithium carbonate, which he will need to accomplish his eager electric-car revolution.
Besides cost-competitiveness, MGX’s process offers two other advantages, he said. One is that it turns wastewater into clean water as a byproduct, which “provides a tremendous benefit” even though it adds to the cost, said Lazerson. The other bonus is that lithium can be extracted from oilfield brine in just a few days. This compares to the 18 months or so that it takes to produce lithium through solar evaporation, which Lazerson said was the most common method of extraction at present.