DLE Pilot Plant Produces High Quality Eluate

DLE Pilot Plant Produces High Quality Eluate

CleanTech Lithium PLC (AIM:CTL, Frankfurt:T2N, OTCQX:CTLHF) an exploration and development company advancing sustainable lithium projects in Chile, announces highly encouraging results from the processing of brine from Laguna Verde at the Company´s Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) pilot plant in Copiapó, Chile.


  • The DLE pilot plant has produced high quality eluate with low impurities
  • The performance of the DLE process is based on the composition of the eluate achieving key metrics of:
    • A lithium grade in feed brine of 196mg/L was concentrated to 710mg/L in the eluate, or a 3.6X concentration factor
    • Lithium adsorption recovery rate of 94%
    • Rejection rates over 99% for key contaminants calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulphate
  • A reverse osmosis unit at the DLE pilot plant is used to concentrate the eluate prior to shipment, concentrating the test batch from a lithium grade of 710mg/L in the eluate to 2,194mg/L in the concentrated eluate
  • An initial 200L of concentrated eluate has been sent to a third-party processor in North America for test work to set up the process plant for conversion of eluate into battery grade lithium carbonate
  • CTL will ship batches of 24m3 of the concentrated eluate for conversion with the first batch scheduled for later this month
  • The pilot plant in Copiapó has demonstrated that it can operate at the designed capacity of concentrated eluate production sufficient for conversion to 1 tonne per month of battery grade lithium carbonate
  • This places CleanTech Lithium at the forefront of exploration companies in Chile and the wider sector, in its ability to make available large samples of lithium carbonate product to potential strategic and offtake partners seeking to start product qualification

Steve Kesler, Executive Chairman, of CleanTech Lithium PLC, said:

"The analysis of the eluate shows the DLE performance has exceeded our expectations, concentrating the lithium grade of the feed brine by 3.6X while achieving high recovery rates and low impurities. The first full batch of 24m3 of concentrated eluate is scheduled to be shipped in the coming weeks. The pilot plant has met its design capacity capable of producing 1 tonne of LCE per month, positioning CleanTech Lithium to produce significant quantities of lithium product samples for potential strategic partners. We are edging closer to be one of the first DLE based companies in Chile to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate."

Further Information

The Company´s DLE pilot plant is in Copiapó, Chile, approximately 250km from Laguna Verde, and finished commissioning in late March. At the R&D centre where the pilot plant is located, brine from the Laguna Verde project is stored in a large 243,000 litre vessel outside the pilot plant and then fed into an indoor tank having passed through filtration to remove suspended solids. It is then fed into the DLE columns shown in Figure 1, which are filled with adsorbent designed to be selective for lithium molecules. Lithium, as lithium chloride, is adsorbed from the brine, before desorption with water to create a purified lithium chloride eluate.

A reverse osmosis (RO) unit at the DLE pilot plant, as shown in Figure 2, then concentrates the eluate by extracting approximately 75% of the water before this concentrated eluate is shipped to the facilities of Conductive Energy in Chicago, USA for conversion into battery grade lithium carbonate. A 200L batch of concentrated eluate was recently air freighted to Conductive Energy for test-work to optimise the planned conversion process before larger volumes of concentrated eluate, which will be shipped in 24m3 containers, are dispatched with the first such shipment scheduled for later this month.

Several blue cylinders with white tubes Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Fig. 1: Pilot Plant Multi-Valve Feeding Brine to DLE Columns (approx. 2.5 metres high)

Fig. 2: Reverse Osmosis Unit Used to Concentrate Eluate at the Pilot Plant

Brine is processed at the DLE pilot plant in cycles where each cycle represents the 30-hour sequence of adsorption, displacement wash and desorption using all 30 of the DLE columns to process the feed brine into eluate. The 200L test batch provides a representative sample taken from the first two DLE cycles completed at the pilot plant. Analysis of the feed brine, eluate and concentrated eluate is provided in Table 1 below.

Element (ions)


Feed Brine


Concentrated Eluate

Boron (B)





Calcium (Ca)





Chloride (Cl)





Lithium (Li)





Magnesium (Mg)





Potassium (K)





Sodium (Na)





Sulphate (SO4)





Total Dissolve Solids (TDS)





Table 1: Composition of Feed Brine, Eluate and Concentrated Eluate (Major Ions)

The concentration of lithium from 197mg/L in the feed brine to 710mg/L in the eluate is 3.6X, which is considered to be a very positive result. DLE primarily acts as a purification stage, recovering lithium chloride from the brine whilst rejecting other impurities. For all the major ions in the brine, apart from boron, the rejection rate was 99% or higher and almost 100% for the largest impurity in the brine which is sodium, as shown in Table 2 below. The adsorbent shows very good selectivity for these ions with extremely high selectivity for lithium to sodium.

The low selectivity for boron is expected with the Company´s process flow sheet, as described in the completed Laguna Verde scoping study, which includes a boron removal stage using ion exchange. The current process flow sheet also includes a nano-filtration stage for magnesium and calcium as a high-level purification of these two elements is required before conversion to battery grade lithium carbonate. The very low levels of these two elements in the eluate indicates nanofiltration may not be required. CleanTech Lithium´s process team is also working on solutions that would reduce or eliminate the requirement for the Boron removal stage to further simplify the process.

Element (ion)

Rejection in Eluate

Boron (B)


Calcium (Ca)


Magnesium (Mg)


Potassium (K)


Sodium (Na)


Sulphate (SO4)


Table 2: DLE Performance - Rejection of Major Impurities

The recovery rate in Cycle 2 was 94% in adsorption with an overall recovery after desorption of 89%. The desorption recovery rate is expected to be further optimised as the pilot plant stabilises over more operational cycles. The production rate achieved was 2.57 kg LCE/hr which meets or exceeds the design capacity of the plant.

Downstream Processing into Battery Grade LithiumCarbonate

For the conversion of the concentrated lithium chloride eluate into battery grade lithium carbonate, CleanTech Lithium has engaged a leading lithium concentration and refining company, Conductive Energy, based in Alberta, Canada, which has a conversion facility in Chicago, USA (see Figure 3). Concentrated eluate will be shipped in batches of 24m3, which corresponds to a shipping container, to the port of Los Angeles before transiting to Chicago.

A large white and black tank Description automatically generated

A person holding a handful of powder Description automatically generated

Figure 3: Conductive Energy - Milling and Refining Equipment, Continuously Stirred Tank Reactor, and Lithium Carbonate product (pictures left to right)

The first step will be to further concentrate the eluate using Forward Osmosis (FO), with the FO unit provided by Forward Water Technology, another Canadian company based in Ontario. FO achieves a high concentration factor with low energy use. Following FO, the conversion process stages undertaken by Conductive Energy, involve polishing by ion exchange to remove trace impurities, carbonation to precipitate lithium carbonate, solid/liquid separation and drying. These standard industry processes for lithium carbonate production are reflective of the conversion process CleanTech Lithium plans to use at a commercial scale for the Laguna Verde project.

Samples of the lithium carbonate product will be analysed by Conductive Energy and a third-party independent laboratory to confirm the benchmark of 99.5% Li2CO3 is achieved for battery grade lithium carbonate. The product will be packaged for shipping to potential strategic partners and off-takers for product verification in the coming months.

Competent Persons

The following professional acts as qualified person, as defined in the AIM Note for Mining, Oil and Gas Companies (June 2009) and JORC Code (2012):

Marcelo Bravo: Chemical Engineer (Universidad Católica del Norte), has a Master's Degree in Engineering Sciences major in Mineral Processing, Universidad de Antofagasta. He currently works as a Senior Process Consulting Engineer at the Ad-Infinitum company. Mr Bravo has relevant experience in researching and developing potassium, lithium carbonate, and solar evapo-concentration design processes in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. Mr Bravo, who has reviewed and approved the information contained in the chapters relevant to his expertise contained in this announcement, is registered with No. 412 in the public registry of Competent Persons in Mining Resources and Reserves per the Law of Persons Competent and its Regulations in force in Chile. Mr Bravo has sufficient experience relevant to the metallurgical tests and the type of subsequent processing of the extracted brines under consideration and to the activity being carried out to qualify as a competent person, as defined in the JORC Code. Mr Bravo consents to the inclusion in the press release of the matters based on his information in the form and context in which it appears.

The information communicated within this announcement is deemed to constitute inside information as stipulated under the Market Abuse Regulations (EU) No 596/2014 which is part of UK law by virtue of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Upon publication of this announcement, this inside information is now considered to be in the public domain. The person who arranged for the release of this announcement on behalf of the Company was Gordon Stein, Director and CFO.

For further information contact:

CleanTech Lithium PLC

Steve Kesler/Gordon Stein/Nick Baxter

Jersey office: +44 (0) 1534 668 321

Chile office: +562-32239222

Or via Celicourt

Celicourt Communications

Felicity Winkles/Philip Dennis/Ali AlQahtani

+44 (0) 20 7770 6424


Beaumont Cornish Limited (Nominated Adviser)

Roland Cornish/Asia Szusciak

+44 (0) 20 7628 3396

Canaccord Genuity (Joint Broker)

James Asensio

+44 (0) 20 7523 4680

Fox-Davies Capital Limited (Joint Broker)

+44 (0) 20 3884 8450

Daniel Fox-Davies


Beaumont Cornish Limited ("Beaumont Cornish") is the Company's Nominated Adviser and is authorised and regulated by the FCA. Beaumont Cornish's responsibilities as the Company's Nominated Adviser, including a responsibility to advise and guide the Company on its responsibilities under the AIM Rules for Companies and AIM Rules for Nominated Advisers, are owed solely to the London Stock Exchange. Beaumont Cornish is not acting for and will not be responsible to any other persons for providing protections afforded to customers of Beaumont Cornish nor for advising them in relation to the proposed arrangements described in this announcement or any matter referred to in it.


CleanTech Lithium (AIM:CTL, Frankfurt:T2N, OTCQX:CTLHF) is an exploration and development company advancing sustainable lithium projects in Chile for the clean energy transition. Committed to net-zero, CleanTech Lithium's mission is to produce material quantities of sustainable battery grade lithium products using Direct Lithium Extraction technology powered by renewable energy. The Company plans to be a leading supplier of 'green' lithium to the EV and battery manufacturing market.

CleanTech Lithium has two key lithium projects in Chile, Laguna Verde and Francisco Basin, and hold licences in Llamara and Salar de Atacama, located in the lithium triangle, a leading centre for battery grade lithium production. The two major projects: Laguna Verde and Francisco Basin are situated within basins controlled by the Company, which affords significant potential development and operational advantages. All four projects have direct access to existing infrastructure and renewable power.

CleanTech Lithium is committed to using renewable power for processing and reducing the environmental impact of its lithium production by utilising Direct Lithium Extraction with reinjection of spent brine. Direct Lithium Extraction is a transformative technology which removes lithium from brine, with higher recoveries than conventional extraction processes. The method offers short development lead times with no extensive site construction or evaporation pond development so there is minimal water depletion from the aquifer. www.ctlithium.com


Click here to connect with CleanTech Lithium PLC (AIM:CTL, OTCQX:CTLHF, Frankfurt:T2N), to receive an Investor Presentation

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SQM reported total revenues for the three months ended March 31, 2024 of US$1,084.5 million compared to total revenues of  US$2,263.9 million for the same period last year.

Net loss (1) for the three months ended March 31, 2024 of (US$869.5) million or (US$3.04) per share, compared to net income of  US$749.9 million, US$2.63 per share for the same period last year.

Over 30% year-on-year higher sales volumes in lithium business, surpassing 43,000 metric tons in 1Q2024.

Revised and increased FY2024 lithium sales volumes guidance.

Record-high quarterly sales volumes in iodine business, over 3,700 metric tons in 1Q2024.

Concluded the acquisition of Andover lithium project in Western Australia.

Successfully completed the ramp-up of the Dixin lithium hydroxide conversion facility in Sichuan, China, with a nominal capacity of 20,000 metric tons.

SQM will hold a conference call to discuss these results on Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 12:00pm ET (12:00pm Chile time).

Participant Dial-In (Toll Free): 1-844-282-4852

Participant International Dial-In: 1-412-317-5626

Webcast: https://event.choruscall.com/mediaframe/webcast.html?webcastid=qmUdFzpU

SANTIAGO, Chile , May 22, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM) (NYSE: SQM; Santiago Stock Exchange: SQM-B, SQM-A) reported today net loss ( [1] ) for the three months ended March 31, 2024 , of (US$869.5) million , (US$3.04) per share. Excluding the net effect of accounting adjustments for the payments of the specific tax on mining activities for the exploitation of lithium, the net income for the three months ended March 31, 2024 , totaled US$228.1 million ( US$0.80 per share), representing a decrease of approximately 69.6% compared to US$749.9 million ( US$2.63 per share).

Gross profit reached US$368.5 million (34.0% of revenues) for the three months ended March 31, 2024 , lower than US$1,065.6 million (47.1% of revenues) recorded for the three months ended March 31, 2023 . Revenues totaled US$1,084.5 million for the three months ended March 31, 2024 , representing a decrease of approximately 52.1% compared to US$2,263.9 million reported for the three months ended March 31, 2023 .

SQM's Chief Executive Officer, Ricardo Ramos , stated, "We are pleased with the positive year-on-year growth in sales volumes across all of our major businesses. During the first quarter of 2024, we delivered record-high quarterly sales volumes in the iodine business, almost 9% higher when compared to the same period last year. Sales volumes in our specialty nutrition and potassium business lines were approximately 20% higher year-on-year, while lithium sales volumes were over 30% higher during the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period last year. This growth was offset by lower year-on-year realized average sales prices in these business lines as a result of lower market prices during the first quarter of 2024."

He continued by saying, "We believe that the strong demand growth in lithium market seen since the beginning of the year could continue for the remainder of the year, with total lithium demand surpassing 1.1 million metric tons during 2024. Given this positive trend in demand growth, especially in China which accounts for almost 75% of global lithium demand, and our updated sales volumes outlook for the year, we believe that our sales volumes could reach 200,000 metric tons in 2024."

Mr. Ramos added, "We continue with our growth plans in Chile and abroad. Our iodine and nitrates expansion project in Pampa Blanca is progressing successfully and we expect to deliver 1,300 metric tons of iodine from this new operation in 2024. In the recent months, we began the construction of a seawater pipeline which will deliver seawater to our operations, allowing us to expand our production capacity and supply freshwater to our neighboring communities.

In lithium business, as detailed below, we have completed the new expansion of our lithium carbonate facility in Chile , reaching 210,000 metric tons per year, and continued to work on a series of initiatives related to efficiency, quality and process improvements to expand this production capacity to 240,000 metric tons per year in 2025, thus adding incremental 30,000 metric tons per year of lithium carbonate capacity. Our lithium hydroxide capacity (conversion from lithium carbonate) has reached 40,000 metric tons per year and we remain on track to increase our total lithium hydroxide capacity in Chile to 100,000 metric tons per year in 2025.

After signing a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with Codelco at the end of last year, we continued with the negotiations to define the definitive conditions and documents for a joint operation in the Salar de Atacama, which we expect to deliver by the end of this month."

He closed by saying, "In China, after several years of developing lithium sulfate refinery project, which consisted of redesigning and modifying of the Dixin chemical plant to convert lithium sulfate product from the Salar de Atacama into battery grade lithium hydroxide, we are proud to announce that this process concluded this month by SQM acquiring 100% of the plant. With a design capacity of 20,000 metric tons per year and the first production archived at the end of last year, Dixin plant is fundamental to our strategy to at least double our lithium hydroxide production from lithium sulfate in the coming years.

Finally, in Australia , through a 50/50 joint venture with Hancock Prospecting Pty (Hancock), we completed the acquisition of 60% of the Andover lithium project by acquiring 100% of the shares of Azure Minerals Limited for a total amount of approximately US$350 million (SQM's share). We look forward to working with Hancock on what we believe will be a  significant lithium project on a global scale. By combining our mining and lithium expertise with Hancock's experience in project development and mining operations in Australia , we expect to build a strong and mutually beneficial partnership."

The total capex for 2024 is expected to reach US$1.3 billion , including the capex associated with the abovementioned initiatives for our lithium carbonate capacity expansions of approximately US$70 million , Dixin plant acquisition of approximately US$140 million , and maintenance of approximately US$150 million . The total capex amount does not include the amount of approximately US$350 million paid for the acquisition of Andover lithium project.

About SQM

SQM is a global company that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Santiago Stock Exchange (NYSE: SQM; Santiago Stock Exchange: SQM-B, SQM-A). SQM develops and produces diverse products for several industries essential for human progress, such as health, nutrition, renewable energy and technology through innovation and technological development. We aim to maintain our leading world position in the lithium, potassium nitrate, iodine and thermo-solar salts markets.

For further information, contact:

Gerardo Illanes / gerardo.illanes@sqm.com
Irina Axenova  / irina.axenova@sqm.com
Isabel Bendeck / isabel.bendeck@sqm.com

For media inquiries, contact:
Maria Ignacia Lopez / ignacia.lopez@sqm.com
Pablo Pisani / pablo.pisani@sqm.com

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as: "anticipate," "plan," "believe," "estimate," "expect," "strategy," "should," "will" and similar references to future periods. Examples of forward-looking statements include, among others, statements we make concerning the implementation of the MoU and potential partnership with Codelco, the development of Salar Futuro Project, Company's capital expenditures, financing sources, Sustainable Development Plan, business and demand outlook, future economic performance, anticipated sales volumes, profitability, revenues, expenses, or other financial items, anticipated cost synergies and product or service line growth.

Forward-looking statements are neither historical facts nor assurances of future performance. Instead, they are estimates that reflect the best judgment of SQM management based on currently available information. Because forward-looking statements relate to the future, they involve a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors that are outside of our control and could cause actual results to differ materially from those stated in such statements, including our ability to successfully implement the Sustainable Development Plan. Therefore, you should not rely on any of these forward-looking statements. Readers are referred to the documents filed by SQM with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, including the most recent annual report on Form 20-F, which identifies other important risk factors that could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements are based on information available to SQM on the date hereof and SQM assumes no obligation to update such statements, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise, except as required by law.

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