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OPERATIONS

Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant (Zhangjiagang, China)

 

Galaxy wholly owns the Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant, a battery grade lithium carbonate plant. The Jiangsu plant represents Galaxy's move into downstream operations, and is the first fully-automated lithium carbonate plant in China. The plant is located in the Yangtze River International Chemical Industrial Park of the Zhangjiagang Free Trade Zone in the Jiangsu Province of China, less than one hour's drive northwest of Shanghai.


The plant allows Galaxy to manufacture a high grade product for the lithium carbonate market with complete over the product specification.


Lithium carbonate is used for the manufacture of lithium-ion battery cathode materials and Galaxy uses spodumene from third party suppliers as feedstock for the plant.


At full capacity, the Jiangsu plant can produce 17,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of battery-grade lithium carbonate. All of the necessary infrastructure is available in the Yangtze River International Chemical Industrial Park. Key utilities including water supply, sewage treatment, power supply, steam supply, telecommunications, industrial gas and fire-fighting facilities are available at the Company's site. The Jiangsu site plan provides access to supply of sulphuric acid, soda ash and caustic soda from local neighbouring producers.

 

JIANGSU PLANT OPENING CEREMONY VIDEO

Lithium Carbonate Production

The following key process steps are involved in the conversion of spodumene to lithium carbonate:
• Decrepitation
• Sulphating roast and leaching
• Precipitation
• Lithium carbonate crystallisation
• Sodium Sulphate crystallisation

Feed Preparation

Decrepitation is essential for the hydrometallurgical processing of spodumene ore. Decrepitation in a rotary calcining kiln changes the crystal phase from the alpha to the beta form. This enables the lithium in the ore to be amenable to displacement by sodium. Moist spodumene concentrate averaging 6% Li2O and 5% moisture is reclaimed from an open stockpile area and is fed to a rotary kiln. Decrepitation takes place at 1,070 °C – 1,090°C. The kiln product consists of a granular mix of beta-spodumene and unreacted gangue minerals, which upon leaving the kiln is cooled to about 100°C in a fluid bed cooler. The cooled kiln product is then milled in a dry grinding mill to reduce the material to below 200μm in preparation for the subsequent process step and pneumatically conveyed to a storage silo.

Flow Diagram – Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant

 

Sulphating Roast

Dry, milled beta spodumene is thoroughly mixed with concentrated sulphuric acid in a pug mixer. The mixed material from the pug mixer is fed directly into the sulphating kiln and dry material exiting the sulphating kiln is gravity fed directly into the leach tank.

Leaching and Residue Removal

The solids from the sulphating kiln are leached in spent liquor and make up water. An optimal pulp density is maintained to maximise the lithium concentration at crystallisation as well as to ensure that the solubility limit of lithium sulphate during leaching is not exceeded. The lithium sulphate / residue slurry exiting the leach tank is pumped to a thickener and filter system to separate the gangue solids from the process liquor.

Precipitation

The precipitation circuit is designed to remove magnesium and calcium impurities from the lithium sulphate solution and present a clear filtrate to the lithium carbonate crystallisation stage. The process liquor is then passed through a media filter to polish the liquor stream.

Li2CO3 Crystallisation

Lithium carbonate is crystallised with the addition of soda ash and the increase in temperature of the system. The lithium carbonate slurry from the second crystalliser reports to the lithium thickener where the lithium carbonate crystals are allowed to settle to allow separation from the spent liquor.

Product Recovery and Packaging

The slurry containing the lithium carbonate crystals is filtered and the filter cake is dried in a rotary drum drier. The dried product is then conveyed to a storage silo in the bagging facility.

Sodium Sulphate (Na2SO4) Crystallisation

Sodium sulphate from the process solution is crystallised in an evaporative crystalliser system. The sodium sulphate slurry formed in the sulphate crystallisation stage reports to the sodium sulphate thickener where the solids are allowed to settle and then underflow to a vacuum belt filter. The sodium sulphate is sold as a by-product to the detergent industry.

Product Quality

Indicative Analysis

 

Chemical Content
Lithium
Li2CO3
>99.5%
Calcium
Ca
0.005%
Sodium
Na
0.025%
Potassium
K
0.001%
Iron
Fe
0.001%
Manganese
Mn
0.001%
Copper
Cu
0.001%
Silica
Si
0.005%
Magnesium
Mg
0.01%
Chloride
Cl
0.003%
Aluminium
Al
0.005%
Sulphate
SO4
0.08%
Lead
Pb
0.001%
Moisture
H2O
0.40%
 

Reagent Supply is Secured Locally

The key reagents for the sulphate process for lithium carbonate production are soda ash and sulphuric acid. The Company signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with its neighbour, Two Lions (Zhangjiagang) Fine Chemicals Co., Ltd. to supply 38,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid per annum for 15 years. The supply arrangement also includes supply of sodium hydroxide and steam and access to modern automated bulk mineral unloading facilities.


Galaxy has also secured a supply of soda ash with the Jiangsu Huachang Chemical Co. Limited (Huachang). Huachang will supply 40,000 tonnes of soda ash (Na2CO3) per annum for 15 years from 2012.