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Will Zinnwald Lithium Be Able To Do It?

Dec. 14, 2021 6:07 AM ET
Tim Worstall profile picture
Tim Worstall's Blog
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  • I know perhaps a little too much about this particular part of the mining world.
  • Zinnwald Lithium is trying one more difficulty than most other lithium miners.
  • The question is, will it really work? Something I don't actually know.

Zinnwaldite and lithium

The world has two major sources of lithium these days. There's extraction from brines and from spodumene. Brines are that Chilean triangle extending into Bolivia and Argentina. Then there are all those people in Cornwall, the Salton Sea, who are looking at extracting from geothermal waters.

Moving further out into less likely perhaps possibilities there are folks looking at brines from desalination plants, I've even seen one claim of successful extraction from the Red Sea. 

The other source is spodumene. This is hard rock mining and has long been common in Australia (ie, the Sons of Gwalia mine at Greenbushes). This has the demerit that the mine produces a concentrate that requires further processing. It also tends to be the marginal course. 

As the lithium price varies it's not the brines that open and close, it's the spodders.

Then there's what Zinnwald Lithium (LON:ZINN) is trying. Which is that in the Krusny Hory there's the mineral zinnwaldite. Which has a lithium content not far off that of spodumene. So, theoretically, it can be extracted. But the price at which it can be is the thing.

I'm just not sure about that. I know some of the people who did some of the original research as a result of my owning a mining claim (not for lithium) in the same area. In fact, on the next hill over. And I just don't know. 

I vary between thinking that the addition of an extra level of complexity - a new extraction technique from a different mineral - to the already difficult process of competing in the lithium market isn't a good idea. On the other hand it is known that the zinnwaldite is there, that it can be mined and that it does contain lithium. 

It's that balance between near certainty of the presence of lithium and the uncertainty - until scaled up and used in anger - of the extraction process that leave me simply not knowing.

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