SUEZ - Water Technologies & Solutions (SUEZ WTS) has been selected by Eramet, a global mining and metallurgical group, to supply critical technologies to concentrate and purify lithium brine for the Centenario-Ratones lithium mining project in Salta, Argentina.
The project will utilize a novel direct lithium extraction (DLE) process, developed by Eramet and enabled by SUEZ WTS’ technologies, that utilizes extraction, concentration and purification to mine lithium. This novel process increases lithium yield to more than 90% and speeds the production process to just hours. In comparison, conventional mining methods that rely on solar evaporation produce a significantly lower yield with a 12-24-month production timeline.
SUEZ WTS will provide Nanofiltration (NF) and Reverse Osmosis (RO) membranes, as well as a thermal package consisting of a Mechanical Vapor Recompression (MVR) evaporator and a Thermal Vapor Recompression (TVR) crystallizer to enable this novel DLE process.
“SUEZ has been supporting the global lithium market for several years, adapting our technologies to offer customers the ability to increase product yield while reducing production time and environmental impact compared to conventional extraction processes,” says Michael Odam, Commercial Manager of Lithium Projects in Latin America for SUEZ WTS. “We are proud to be working with Eramet to develop the solutions needed to increase the efficiency and yield of the lithium mining process as it becomes increasingly critical to support the global energy transition.”
SUEZ WTS worked closely with Eramet in developing and adapting its membrane and thermal technologies for Eramet’s DLE process. A long-term pilot program was conducted at Eramet’s R&D facility in France, followed by additional pilot work at its Training Center at the project site in Salta, Argentina to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technologies.
“SUEZ WTS’ ability to adapt the application of their products to meet our complex flowsheets, along with their performance guarantees, made them the best technology provider for this project,” says Hervé Montégu, Senior Vice-President of Lithium BU at Eramet. “Our combined expertise and on-going collaboration with SUEZ WTS will be a milestone in lithium production as demand for the mineral skyrockets and production increases.”
“The Centenario-Ratones lithium mining project is a great demonstration of how lithium producers can leverage existing water and process technologies to enable new innovations that can unlock impactful economic, environmental and societal benefits,” says Odam.
The project is expected to produce 24,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent per year once commissioned in 2024.