International Battery Metals to Commence US Lithium Production with Leased DLE Plant

International Battery Metals to Commence US Lithium Production with Leased DLE Plant

International Battery Metals (IBAT) announced that it has leased its portable direct lithium extraction (DLE) plant to a customer planning to start lithium production for electric vehicle batteries in the United States within the next six months. This development positions IBAT as the first company to commercially produce lithium using DLE technology, marking a significant advancement in lithium processing methods.

Lithium production traditionally relies on large, water-intensive evaporation ponds or open-pit mines. DLE technology, akin to household water softeners, aims to extract about 90% or more of the lithium from brines, significantly higher than the approximately 50% extraction rate of ponds. Until now, no DLE technology has reached commercial production without the use of ponds.

Global Shift Toward DLE

The DLE sector gained prominence last year when Chilean President Gabriel Boric proposed a plan to replace evaporation ponds with DLE technologies across Chile’s vast lithium reserves. Major companies like Albemarle, Exxon Mobil, General Motors, and Rio Tinto have invested in DLE, though none have launched commercial operations.

John Burba, founder of IBAT and an early DLE innovator, designed the DLE facility to be portable, reducing construction costs. The plant, occupying less than three acres, contrasts with the hundreds of acres required for evaporation ponds or mines. IBAT’s plant is expected to initially produce 4,000 metric tons of lithium and potentially increase to 8,000 metric tons, surpassing existing US lithium projects.

While IBAT has not disclosed the lessee of its DLE plant, it describes the customer as a significant producer of metals and minerals, including lithium, in the western United States. IBAT will receive royalties from the lithium produced at the facility and retains the option to sell the plant to the lessee, while maintaining all technology rights.

Environmental Considerations and Commercialization Goals

The DLE facility is designed to recycle over 98% of its water usage, addressing concerns over the lithium industry’s high water consumption. John Burba expressed enthusiasm about reaching full commercialization with this initiative. icon

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