Vancouver based junior mining company MGX Minerals have developed a new, faster method to procure lithium from oil-extraction wastewater. This new technology reduces production time of lithium from brine, and results in a cleaner by-product. MGX CEO Jared Lazerson argues that this method of lithium extraction will allow for greater turnover time of the highly in-demand chemical element, lithium.

How it works:

Through this method, lithium and other valuable minerals are extracted from heavy oil evaporator blowdown wastewater (EBD), a byproduct of steam assisted gravity drainage. This EBD was chosen specifically for its potential to generate high environmental revenue. For now, this wastewater is processed from 2 North American mines and 6 oil and gas sites, with multiple new clients on the list to join. MGX utilises a pilot plant with processing capabilities of a cubic metre of liquid per hour. The method involves a treatment process, within which all suspended solids and 99.7% of hydrocarbons are removed, and scale-forming ions are reduced to levels that allow for greater reuse in steam generating processes. MGX’s method allows for a 70% recovery rate of the lithium carbonate contained in oil field brine. The byproduct of the process is clean water. As a result, the product is much cleaner than that of traditional solar evaporation extraction. The main benefit of this method is that it cuts down the production time from 18 months, as per the traditional method of solar evaporation, to just a few days. Thus, increased levels of lithium and a greater turnover period result. According to MGX, this is the first technology of its kind.

In May of 2017, MGX entered into an agreement for water handling and lithium extraction with water and oil specialist company, PurLucid Treatment Solutions. Of the agreement, Lazerson says: “This new technology enables oil and gas providers to treat their wastewater with a highly effective, low energy solution which replaces conventional methods such as disposal wells using the brine water as the primary feedstock for our petrolithium extraction process. Under these conditions, our investment in and acquisition of PurLucid is an efficient way to combine the development of valuable minerals with wastewater management for the upstream oil and gas industry.”

The push for more lithium:

Demand for lithium has been steadily growing over the years. This is largely a result of energy storage and consumer electronics, such as the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and other power-storage devices. Over the next decade, the worldwide demand for finished lithium is expected to be 400 000 to 500 000 tons per year, a stark rise from the current demand of 160 000 tons per year (as of 2016).With the development of this new method, the ever increasing demand for lithium is expected to have found a viable solution.

What are your thoughts about this technology and its impact on the mining sector?

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