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China expanding lithium facility at Qinghai Salt Lake

(ATF) Work resumed on Thursday at China’s largest brine extraction project – Qinghai Salt Lake Fozhao Lanke Lithium Co Ltd, which aims to generate about 20,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate per year.

Company chairman He Yongping said that Chaerhan Salt Lake in Golmud, Qinghai province, has a total area of 5,856 square kilometres and it has more than 60 billion tonnes of resources. Among them is an estimated 540 million tonnes of potassium chloride and 12 million tons of lithium chloride, which China ranks as having the greatest potential economic value.

Over the past 10 years, the company has shifted from traditional potassium extraction to lithium extraction and other elements for strategic emerging industries, such as new energy and new materials. The company says it has successfully overcome the worldwide problem of “extraction of lithium from brine with a high lithium/ magnesium ratio by adsorption method”. 

Currently, device has been built to achieve industrial production of 10,000 tonnes a year of lithium carbonate.

This uses nano-filtration reverse osmosis, lithium precipitation, adsorbent synthesis and other techniques, as well as supporting auxiliary production projects.

But when the project is completed, it should achieve annual production scale of 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium carbonate. 

The project is nearly three years old, having started construction on April 18, 2018.

About 1.7 billion yuan ($260 million) has been invested to date, and the overall progress of the project is 85%. It is expected that a test run of full capacity will be tried by September 30, 2021.

Jiang Jun, the deputy governor of Xizhou, was quoted as telling China New Agency: “After years of development, the Haixi salt lake industry has reached a new level of comprehensive utilisation and large-scale production, and has overcome nearly 100 major technical problems, such as reverse flotation cold crystallisation and high magnesium-lithium ratio salt lake lithium extraction. The salt chemical industry system we are advancing in the direction of multi-industry integration.

“The energy consumption, water consumption and pollutant emission intensity of unit products have reached the international advanced level, and the industrial scale and development capacity have been significantly enhanced. At present, we have the basic conditions to build a world-class salt lake industrial base.”

Jiang Jun said that the salt lake industry has become the most distinctive and important core industry of the Haixi industry. 

During the 14th Five-Year Plan period (up to 2025), Haixi will make every effort, he said, to build a world-class salt lake industrial cluster, to optimize the spatial layout of the salt lake industry, and promote the construction of ‘smart salt lakes’.”

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Chris Gill

With over 30 years reporting on China, Gill offers a daily digest of what is happening in the PRC.

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