Albemarle to expand Nevada lithium production facility
Albemarle Corporation, a leader in the global speciality chemicals industry, will expand capacity at the company’s lithium production facility in Silver Peak, Nevada.
It will also begin a program to evaluate clays and other available Nevada resources for the commercial production of lithium, a critical mineral in green mobility, and comes as North American automotive manufacturers are looking to reorganise their supply chain for greater security and sustainability.
As such, Albemarle’s investment in Silver Peak, which produces lithium from brine extracted from the Clayton Valley basin, will support this increased demand for domestic supply of lithium, the company says.
The company plans to invest between $30 million and $50 million starting this year, to double current production at the Nevada site by 2025, making full use of its brine water rights.
Additionally, the corporation aims to commence exploration of clay and evaluate technology in 2021 which could accelerate the viability of lithium production from clay resources in the region. It also looking at ways to optimise lithium extraction from its brine resources, including those in the Clayton Valley.
Through a Department of Energy-sponsored research project with Argonne National Laboratory, Albemarle it is investigating a process to streamline production of lithium hydroxide, which is principally used in EV batteries, from brine resources.
"As a leader in the lithium industry, our priority is to optimise our world-class resources and production. This includes Silver Peak, a site uniquely positioned as the only lithium-producing resource in the United States," says Eric Norris, Albemarle President, Lithium.
"This investment in domestic capacity shows that we are committed to looking at the many ways in which Silver Peak can provide domestic support for the growing EV market."
Albemarle's domestic resources also include the historic 800-acre Kings Mountain, N.C., lithium site, which is one of the richest spodumene ore deposits in the world and home to the company's global lithium technical centre and piloting operations, as well as lithium-containing brines in Arkansas.
Demand for lithium is expected to surge in coming years as EV adoption picks up pace globally. Tesla, the US-based electric vehicle manufacturer, says that its production increased by 39.6 percent year-on-year in 2020, while sales rose by around 35.9 percent over the same period.
Demand for lithium hydroxide is expected to increase as the development of high-performance batteries improves, and vehicles with a longer driving range are brough to market, experts say.
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.