Li3 Energy (OTCBB:LIEG) announced Tuesday the findings of an NI 43-101 compliant technical report on its Maricunga lithium brine property in northern Chile, independently ranked as one of the top ten lithium projects in the world.
The report, conducted by Hains Technology Associates, concludes that Maricunga can be considered a "property of merit", as it holds sufficient exploration potential to warrant further cost to advance the project to pre-feasibility stage.
Indeed, the property, in which Li3 has a controlling interest, has the potential to be a source of lithium, potassium and boron. The company recently signed a deal with one of the world's largest steel manufacturers, South Korea-based POSCO (NYSE:PKX), to jointly explore and evaluate the development of the Maricunga project, including the establishment of a commercial plant.
This is because one of the primary uses for lithium is in the production of batteries for hybrid and electic vehicles. As demand for these cars increase, so will the world's requirements for lithium, resulting in many battery and automakers in Korea and Japan partnering with lithium exploration companies to ensure a steady supply.
Maricunga covers an area of approximately 1,438 hectares, comprising six concessions, and is located in the northeast section of the Salar de Maricunga in Region III of Atacama.
According to the NI 43-101 compliant report, exploration work at Maricunga has indicated that the brines are enriched in lithium and potassium, from which lithium can be recovered at a good rate.
The company also noted the relatively high boron concentration in the brine, which should permit high extraction rates for the recovery of boric acid, a valuable co-product.
Historical work over Maricunga has calculated a non compliant mineral resource of 224,300 tonnes of lithium and 3.27 million tonnes of potash. The recent report estimates that it is possible to develop an NI 43-101 compliant resource similar to the historical one.
Initial drilling at the property estimated assay values of 1.1g/L lithium, 7.93 g/L potassium, 1.81 q/L boron and 6.6 g/L magnesium.
In addition, production from the property is expected to be lower cost than other Chilean salars, as sulphate in the brine is unusually low, reducing the need for additional reagents for sulphate removal. Electrical and road infrastructure is also in place to support preliminary development.
"The findings of the NI 43 -101 and other preliminary data support our opinion of the strength of this strategic asset," said COO Tom Currin.
Other data compiled from earlier findings is expected to be further validated with the completion of a preliminary economic assessment report for Maricunga, which Li3 is anticipating by the end of the 4th quarter.
"Armed with this data, Li3 looks forward to the future and unlocking the full potential of Maricunga, commercializing the asset and creating value for all of our stakeholders and strategic partners," added CEO Luis Saenz.
Li3, which looks for lithium properties in Peru, Argentina and Chile, has begun the initial $3.8 million development work program on the project.