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Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin

Lithium Australia juggling multiple balls

Lithium Australia’s joint venture in Mexico is living up to its promise as a world-class lithium project, with early sampling work returning extensive hits of potentially resource-grade Lithium.

The ASX-listed company is in the early stages of farming into the Electra project at Sonora in northern Mexico, which abuts the La Ventana project that has already signed an off-take agreement with revered electric car manufacturer Tesla.

Lithium Australia reported this week that reconnaissance surface sampling in October of prospective clay horizons at the Agua Fria prospect had returned high-grade assays of more than 1,000ppm Lithium from 10 of a total of 31 samples. The average of the 10 high-grade samples was 1,135ppm, while the average across all 31 samples was still a respectable 783ppm.

Managing director, Adrian Griffin, said “Fertile clays within the geological environment of Electra generally exhibit low lithium grades, so to get these remarkable grades, in excess of 1,000ppm, is significant so early in the new project’s life span."

“Grades in the range of 100-200ppm maybe considered to be anomalous, but grades in excess of 1,000ppm are often included in resource calculations, so Agua Fria has literally leapt out of the starting blocks on data known to date.”

Lithium Australia’s joint venture partner, Toronto-listed Alix Resources Corp., has also advised that prospective clay horizons have now been traced over some 4.5kms of strike, with indications of width extending up to 800 metres. The geology of the lithium-rich clay layers have been found to be similar to those hosting the adjoining La Ventana deposit held by Bacanora Minerals and REM.

The highly encouraging results have led the partners to bring forward the start date for the maiden drilling program, which is now scheduled for the first quarter of 2017.

In the meantime, Alix geologists are conducting extensive hand-trenching programs, which will help guide the selection of drill locations.

Lithium Australia is earning a 49% stake in the Electra project, with an option to extend to 65%.

In other news, Lithium Australia announced this week it had reached a milestone with the commercialisation of its breakthrough Sileach technology for processing Lithium concentrates.

The company said it had awarded a contract to Perth-based CPC Engineering to complete engineering design, capital cost and operating cost estimates for a Sileach plant at a number of Australian sites.

Sileach is a low-energy, low-cost process with the potential to halve the costs of Lithium extraction, compared to traditional processes that rely on roasting. Importantly it is capable of turning uneconomic Lithium Oxide grades into economic grades because it removes the expensive, energy hungry roasting stage from the process, relying instead on chemical reactions.

A high priority location is Port Hedland in W.A, which is emerging as a hub for fast-developing Lithium projects in the Pilbara, including Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora project. Lithium Australia and Pilbara Minerals reached agreement earlier this year to investigate the use of Sileach to produce high-value Lithium Carbonate at Pilgangoora, with a view to forming a 50/50 processing joint venture.

Continuous pilot testing of Pilgangoora spodumene is scheduled later this month as part of Sileach trials conducted by ANSTO Minerals in Sydney since September.

Mr Griffin said 2016 had been the biggest year to date for Sileach, which had progressed from first laboratory tests to awarding an engineering design contract.

He said “The commitment of our partners at ANSTO Minerals and Murdoch University, and support by grants from the federal and state governments has been paramount in this development."

“The decision to award the engineering contract to CPC Engineering retains much of the financial and intellectual property benefit in Western Australia, and maintains our scheduled target for commercialisation of the Sileach™ process.”

Lithium Australia also have a Sileach processing agreement in place with upcoming ASX Lithium float, Metals Tech, for whom the  company also provided some original seed funding.

Lithium Australia will receive a swag of shares and options in the float and its shareholders as at December 15th will receive a priority offer of 5m shares at 20c a share on a first come first served basis.

Metals Tech are exploring in the highly prospective Canadian province of Quebec which is considered to be one of the great mineral provinces of the world.

Samples from Metals Tech’s ground have been grading 3-4 percent Lithium Oxide and the company’s projects are within striking distance of a number of big tonnage existing Lithium mines with very respectable grades. 

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