EMERALD PARK – Three facilities, each producing approximately 2,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year, with the first one going into production in the first half of 2025.

Those were some of the key points in a zoom call Arizona Lithium had with its investors on Nov. 9.

The Perth, Australia-based company named after an American State plans on producing its first lithium in southeast Saskatchewan, within a few kilometres of the U.S. border.

Zach Maurer in front of lithium brine tanks at the Emerald Park pilot plant. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

Earlier in 2023, Arizona Lithium, which is continuing to develop its “Big Sandy” project in Arizona, purchased Emerald Park-based Prairie Lithium. However, Big Sandy is an entirely different beast – a sedimentary project which will involve leaching lithium out of clay. But what they are now calling their “Prairie Lithium Project” is a lot closer to commercialization, and that means a revenue stream, sooner than later.

That’s because instead of moving large amounts of solids, this project will pump up brine from a deep saline aquifer, extract the lithium, and pump it back down again, with minimal land disturbance. It will in almost every way replicate the established methodology, companies and workforce of the local oilpatch, but produce lithium instead of oil.

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“The Prairie Project is a project that doesn’t require the sort of capital expenditure that the Big Sandy does,” explained Paul Lloyd, Arizona Lithium managing director.

From left: Zach Maurer, Paul Lloyd, Brett Rabe, overlooking the pilot plant in Emerald Park. Screenshot

The company in recent days has spooled up its pilot plant in Emerald Park, processing brine collected from its previous exploration programs, drilled near Torquay, Saskatchewan. They’ve cleared land on their first planned commercial site, about four kilometres southwest of Torquay. And that’s where the first production is planned. But that’s just the first.

Lloyd said the next steps after the pilot plant, saying, “I’m very excited about drilling and it’ll be very exciting to drill exploration and production wells at the Prairie Project for the first module, remembering that this project can be implemented on a modular basis.

“So the first three modules will be the production of 6,000 tons of lithium carbonate over three pads, and we will start the construction of that in the new year, with the drilling of production wells. We marked out one of those pads, as we showed on the video. We’ll complete the construction of two more pads next year and drill all the wells.

“So production for q1 in 2025 is a realistic expectation for the first pad. And then we then focus on additional modules and build those modules out, as we as we advance the project.

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“That’s a huge attraction to this project, and one of the reasons why we acquired the project, and the modular basis, so limited capital expenditure. We’re not staring down a $1 billion CAPEX on this project.

He noted a lot of other lithium projects are highly profitable, and they produce a very high-quality product. “So we believe that the lithium brine industry will revolutionize the lithium industry, and we’re going to be a big player in that revolution.”

Brett Rabe, the company’s lithium extraction specialist, explained that the next step following production of a lithium concentrate from direct lithium extraction (DLE) is water removal. “The most cost-effective way is using cross flow reverse osmosis (CFRO). So we’ll take a roughly 1,100 ppm lithium solution and then we will use CFRO technology and take that to 20,000 ppm lithium. We do reject some impurities in our process, but for the most part, all we’re doing is removing water. And then at that point, we add soda ash solution, and we produce 99 plus per cent lithium carbonate in a single step.  The final step is drying the lithium carbonate.”

There is no acid used to strip lithium in the DLE technology in this process, unlike some other DLE technologies, Rabe explained. “All of our barren lithium brine is pumped down to a disposal well. There isn’t anything foreign or anything new we’ve added to that brine. All we’ve done is take it out of the ground, remove the lithium and send it right back again. So we do not have an acid residue or a waste or anything like that in our flow sheet in this process.”

And since their doing a modular build-out, the company can choose to try out different DLE technologies with different modules.

Saskatchewan Minister of Energy and Resources Jim Reiter, left, on Nov. 17 was shown the site of the first planned lithium production facility by Zach Maurer. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Zach Maurer, executive director of Arizona Lithium and founder of Prairie Lithium, explained how the company will benefit from the local oil industry. He said, “It is very akin to the oil and gas industry.

“Again, what a lot of people might not know about the oil and gas industry in southeast Saskatchewan is the wells produce typically at the end of life 98 to 99 per cent brine water cut. So a lot of the wells you see here are actually brine wells. So, if you think of that from a conceptual basis, and you look at the oil and gas industry, they have multiple wells and a central facility. And they replicate that across their land base.

Legislative Secretary for Energy and Resources Daryl Harrison, left, Zach Maurer, and Minister of Energy and Resources Jim Reiter, at Arizona Lithium’s planned initial lithium production site near Torquay.

 

“So, when I started the prairie project that’s the business model that I wanted to apply. I wanted to take what is traditionally large CAPEX mining projects and look at them in a new way and implement this oil and gas style of development and really break it down. So we’ve got a couple of wells feeding these smaller facilities so that we can replicate them across our land base.”

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The company’s land base covers a large area from north of Torquay to the US border, with additional land spread out closer to Estevan.

Maurer said they’re working through the permitting with regulatory officials for the wells and facility, itself, then moving into drilling.

Lloyd explained that some of DLE providers have asked for a percentage of the project. “We’ve been able to negotiate a royalty regime with this DLE third party supplier. It suits us. We want to retain 100 per cent control over our project and we’re getting along very well with that supplier. And remember that this is the third phase of the testing program. So if the results are as good as the first and second phase, then we’ll quickly enter into an agreement and it will be on a royalty basis.”

Asked about financing for the first module, Lloyd explained that they are close to finalizing their preliminary feasibility study by the end of this year, which will help out with financing and capital raising. And having finished lithium carbonate to show potential investors and offtake clients will help as well.

“We believe that with the product we are going to produce and our production profile, we will have a large number of potential strategic investors or off takers.  We are talking to a number of them at the moment and the number will increase significantly when we get those PFS numbers out,” Lloyd said.

As for partnering with a battery or electric vehicle manufacturer, Lloyd said there was a massive shortage in supply. “Yes, we are talking to a number of them. And we can effectively be quite selective and yeah, we are kind of like one of the prettiest girls at the dance at the moment,” he said with a smile.

 

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Lithium in SK, Part 21: Arizona Lithium begins work on future commercial site near Torquay

Lithium in SK, Part 20: Hub City Lithium again finds some of the high concentrations in Canada, announcing second test well results

Lithium in SK, Part 19: Grounded Lithium’s Kindersley project could cost $447 million to build, but bring in $350 million per year

Lithium in SK, Part 18: Hub City Lithium drills second targeted well in Viewfield area, near Stoughton

Lithium in SK, Part 17: Lithium prices have come down … to only US$70,000 a tonne. A decade ago, they were US$7,000

Lithium in SK, Part 16: Arizona Lithium closes Prairie Lithium deal

Lithium in SK, Part 15: Grounded Lithium lays out its development plan

Lithium in SK, Part 14: Prairie Lithium gets federal money, acquisition deal to close soon

Lithium in SK, Part 13B: Hub City announces highest lithium concentration to date, by a significant margin

Lithium in SK: Part 13: Coming into lithium with revenue already flowing from oil

Lithium in SK, Part 12: Hub City Lithium shows promising results northeast of Weyburn

Lithium in SK, Part 11: A detailed video on lithium geology in SE Sask

Lithium in SK, Part 10: A helium explorer who found lithium responds

Lithium in SK, Part 9: And the acquisitions begin, with Prairie Lithium to be acquired by Arizona Lithium

Lithium in SK, Part 8: Ministry of Energy and Resources response to primacy of rights issues

Lithium in SK: Part 7b: The rent’s due, and so is the LLR

Lithium in SK, Part 7: Dealing with an embarrassment of riches – sorting out the primacy of rights

Lithium in SK, Part 6: Direct Lithium Extraction is the multi-billion dollar question

Lithium in SK, Part 5: Prairie Lithium – Old wells or new wells?

Lithium in SK, Part 4: Prairie Lithium pursuing the idea there could be lithium in those brines

Lithium in SK, Part 3: Crown land sale reveals sixth entrant in Saskatchewan lithium exploration race

Lithium in SK, Part 2: Saskatchewan government launches lithium incentives

Lithium in SK Part 1: As the race for lithium takes off, Saskatchewan is seeing the dawn of a new industry