Lithium Australia have chalked up yet another breakthrough technology with the development a world-first portable assay tool that measures lithium grades in soil sample in the field. The new system, developed with US-based SciAps over the past two years, promises to slash exploration costs and boost discovery rates just as the global boom in lithium demand takes off.
Lithium Australia and their US partner are set to revolutionize lithium exploration with a world-first development of technology to accurately measure lithium in soil samples out in the field.
The new portable assay technology, developed with US-based company SciAps, uses Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy to generate lithium assays in real time.
Portable X-ray fluorescence commonly known as XRF is the most widely available portable assay technology currently used, but it is not able to measure lithium content in the field. Explorers have tried to adapt portable XRF by using it to assay for pathfinder elements commonly associated with lithium, but this introduces inaccuracies and the potential to miss vital exploration clues.
The new system is the product of painstaking research and development by Lithium Australia and SciAps over the past two years, culminating in field trials at Lithium Australia’s Seabrook Rare Metals joint venture, about 60km northeast of Southern Cross in WA.
Lithium Australia managing director, Adrian Griffin, said LIBS technology was the first ever practical means of locating lithium-bearing pegmatites with a real-time, hand held system and would significantly reduce exploration costs.
The system’s first commercial application will be in an upcoming drill program at Lithium Australia’s Electra project in Senora County, Mexico. The partners are already looking at wider applications in process control operations in lithium mines and extraction plants.
Mr Griffin said the adaption of LIBS technology to process control functions could provide a significant edge in laboratory testing, pilot plant studies and ultimately in the production environment.
He said the new technology would be evaluated during the prefeasibility study for the commercialisation of the company’s Sileach process for extracting lithium from spodumene and other lithium-bearing ores.
SciAps Global Business Development Director, Andrew Somers, said partnerships with innovative industry players such as Lithium Australia were critical to the success of developing new products for the mining industry.
He said “Field portable LIBS presents new opportunities to complement and build upon conventional techniques such as field portable XRF. This work is important in proving the suitability of this new technique to geochemical applications such as this and we look forward to exploring the many possibilities that the unique capabilities of LIBS and particularly hand-held LIBS offers going forward.”