South Korean steelmaker POSCO has sealed a deal to buy lithium mining rights in Argentina from Galaxy Resources for $280 million. Galaxy will still hold the other tenements of their Sal de Vida project.
POSCO announced also to construct a lithium plant in Argentina, planning to produce 25,000 tonnes of the commodity per year starting from 2021. The plant should supply its battery material manufacturing affiliate POSCO ES Materials.
It is likely that Posco will introduce its own technology called PosLX. This technology does not deploy solar evaporation, but learning from the patent needs a lot of sodium hydroxide to precipitate Magnesium, Boron and Calcium, which makes the process economically difficult. Therefore the quality (specification) of the brine is decisive.
The next step is to precipitate Lithium as Phosphate. All the above processes had to be processed at the salar in 4,000 m height. Lithium Phosphate can be shipped to Korea for further processing.
Most likely addition of acid will produce Lithium Hydroxide. It is possible to produce Lithium Carbonate out of the hydroxide solution. What I learned from the patent does look like, that the process will be expensive.
Sal de Vida has a low Magnesium content and the Boron content is at an average level. Maybe, this was the last chance for Posco to acquire a suitable salar, otherwise they had not paid such an incredible amount of money.
On the other hand, the risk has not been so high because of the availability of a DFS with proven and probable reserve estimates. NPV10 was given by Galaxy at 1 billion USD. So, the investment could be profitable.
Anyway, from my point of view this is a fantastic deal for Galaxy without the need to give up their own Sal de Vida project.