Study Highlights Need for Emphasizing Sustainability During Lithium Production

A recent study conducted by researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory, which is under the Department of Energy in the United States, has discovered new insights into the process of producing lithium and how it is associated with environmental sustainability in the long term, especially in the transportation field with electric cars and batteries.

The study, which was published in the “Resources, Conservations & Recycling” journal, was conducted in collaboration with SQM, one of the largest producers of lithium globally. SQM is a Chilean chemical company that is engaged in the supply of plant nutrients, iodine and industrial chemicals, in addition to lithium.

Jarod Kelly, lead author of the study, stated that the researchers discovered that lithium sourcing, both from a location and process perspective, could strongly impact its associated environmental effects. Kelly, who is also a lifecycle analyst, explained that the research team used operational data obtained from SQM in the study, with the findings demonstrating that concentrated lithium brine as well as its end products could vary considerably in water consumption, sulfur dioxide emissions, greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, noting that this depended on the resource allocation technique that had been utilized.

For their study, the scientists conducted an analysis using the Greenhouse Gases Regulated Emissions and Energy in Technologies, which is an open-source modeling tool. Thereafter, they modeled brine-based lithium obtained from Salar de Atacama, a huge salt flat located in Chile, then expanded their data by modeling ore-based lithium that had been obtained from spodumene ore, found in Australia.

Their findings could have a major effect on how lithium production can be optimized at every stage in order to create products that are more environmentally friendly, especially batteries for electric cars. Projections from the International Energy Agency show that between 2020 and 2040 the demand for lithium is expected to be almost 40 times higher, primarily driven by the deployment of electric cars across the globe.

Co-author of the study, Michael Wang, stated that examining the current production of lithium was vital to the continuance of electric car deployment, with Kelly adding that their study established a standard for the practices that are being used at the moment and highlighted areas that needed improvements. In the report, Kelly also noted that more research in the area would allow the researchers to use the information acquired to develop the best and most sustainable practices for producing lithium.

In addition, SQM head of innovation Veronica Gautier asserted that the results of the study would help further international efforts towards ensuring sustainable and responsible production of lithium.

Given that investors and customers are now examining the sustainability credentials of industrial metals extractors, companies such as First Energy Metals Ltd. (CSE: FE) (OTCQB: FEMFF) are all too aware of the importance of mining metals in a way that doesn’t increase the carbon footprint of the end-use application of those metals, such as in electric vehicles.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to First Energy Metals Ltd. (CSE: FE) (OTCQB: FEMFF) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/FEMFF

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