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Rio Tinto commences battery grade lithium production in California

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(Kitco News) - Rio Tinto announced Wednesday that it has commenced production of battery-grade lithium from waste rock at a lithium demonstration plant at the Boron mine site in California, United States.

The company said that the demonstration plant is the next step in scaling up a breakthrough lithium production process developed at Boron, to recover the critical mineral and extract additional value out of waste piles from over 90 years of mining at the operation.

An initial small-scale trial in 2019 successfully proved the process of roasting and leaching waste rock to recover high grades of lithium.

Rio Tinto added that the demonstration plant has a design capacity of 10 tonnes per year of battery grade lithium. It will be run throughout 2021 to optimise the process and inform Rio Tinto’s feasibility assessment for progressing to a production scale plant with an initial capacity of at least 5,000 tonnes per year, or enough to make batteries for approximately 70,000 electric vehicles.

Rio Tinto’s lithium pipeline includes the Jadar lithium-borate project in Serbia, for which a feasibility study is expected to complete by the end of 2021.

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