Cauchari-Olaroz

Largest greenfield lithium brine asset to come online in 20+ years

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Location Northwest Argentina’s Lithium Triangle in Jujuy Province
Operator The holding company for the project, Minera Exar
Ownership A joint venture between Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd. (46.7%), Lithium Argentina (44.8%) and Jujuy Energia y Mineria Sociedad del Estado (8.5%)
Resource Lithium brine from the Olaroz and Caucharí salt pans (known in South America as “salars”)
Stage Operating
Operation Brine evaporation ponds and processing facility
Production Capacity Stage 1 capacity of 40,000 tpa, Stage 2 expansion of at least 20,000 tpa
Offtake Agreements for over 80% of Lithium Argentina share of Stage 1 are in place at market prices
Capital costs Approximately US$979 million

October 2020: Technical Report and Updated Feasibility Study

Production Process:

Evaporation Ponds: The ponds are lined with a polymer-based material laid over a protective geosynthetic material and engineered granular bedding. The ponds’ configuration includes provision for uninterrupted production during salt harvesting and maintenance work. Brine will be transferred between the successive evaporation ponds using self-priming pumps.

Production Wells: Screened wells target the largest lithium brine aquifers. Submersible electric pumps are proposed for brine pumping. These pumps send the brine to evaporation ponds through a network of pipelines and mixing pools.

Hydrogeology: The Cauchari and Olaroz Salars are classified as “Silver Peak-type” or “sulfate-type” brine deposits characterized by restricted basins within deep structural depressions filled with sediments differentiated as inter-bedded units of clays, salt (halite), sands and gravels. In the Cauchari and Olaroz salars, a lithium-bearing aquifer has developed during arid climatic periods. On the surface, the salars are presently covered by carbonate, borax, sulfate, clay, and sodium chloride facies.

Process: The production process involves two distinct steps and is generally consistent with other established brine operations. The first step uses a solar evaporation process to concentrate lithium in the brine and precipitate competing salts in large-scale ponds. The ponds at Cauchari-Olaroz are based on SQM’s design criteria used in their Atacama operation, and involve the use of shallow ponds where the precipitated salt is annually harvested from the flat pond base. The second step uses processing facilities to transform the concentrated lithium brine into battery-grade lithium carbonate while ensuring the removal of impurities from the end-product.

Production Process Image
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