Part 3: Lithium on the prairies – Mining in Saskatchewan

The focus on lithium extraction in Saskatchewan is of the salt brine variety in the southern part of the province, near Torquay.

Lithium in Saskatchewan

According to the Saskatchewan Geological Survey’s website, hard rock lithium has been identified in northern areas of the province, including Bailey Lake, Cree Lake, Marchant Lake and Mavor Lake. 

However, the focus on lithium extraction in Saskatchewan is of the salt brine variety in the southern part of the province, near Torquay.

Leading the way is Prairie Lithium.  

According to its website, the company, headquartered in Emerald Park, acquired over 362,000 acres of nearly contiguous subsurface mineral permits in Saskatchewan, stretching from the United States border west of Estavan to southeast of Weyburn. 

These land holdings are in the Williston Basin. This geological feature includes parts of eastern Montana and western North Dakota and South Dakota, along with a portion of southern Saskatchewan. The basin is known for having large petroleum and potash deposits. 

The company has entered an agreement with DEEP Earth Energy Production Corp., a Saskatchewan-based geothermal power company, to exchange subsurface mineral permits and establish an area of mutual interest.

Prairie Lithium received $7.5 million in funding as part of a private placement led by PFM Capital Inc, a Saskatchewan private equity investment firm.

The U.S./Canadian border crossing near Torquay, Saskatchewan. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Proprietary technology

Prairie Lithium claims its way of extracting lithium is more environmentally friendly than traditional methods. Because the lithium isn’t encased in rock, no mining is necessary. Instead, the brine containing the lithium needs to be pumped out of the ground and the lithium extracted from that brine. 

In other places that extract lithium from salt brines, like Chile, the brine is left to evaporate in the sun, leaving behind the lithium, much like how saltwater will leave the salt behind as it evaporates.

Prairie Lithium uses its proprietary technology called Prairie Lithium Ion Exchange (Plix) to extract the lithium from the brine without having to evaporate the brine.

“Prairie Lithium’s Plix technology and process allow lithium to be selectively removed from brine while eliminating the requirement for solar evaporation ponds,” the company said in a news release.

In that news release, the company said Plix had been third-party verified by Coanda Research & Development, a company based in Burnaby, BC.

“Three separate lab technicians, working under supervision, repeatedly achieved greater than 99% lithium extraction in less than five minutes from brine at Prairie Lithium’s test facility in Emerald Park,” the statement says. 

In addition to extracting almost all the lithium, Plix rejects most of the sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

“The result of this is a lithium chloride solution that can readily be converted into lithium hydroxide and further converted into lithium carbonate,” the news release stated.

Prairie Lithium says it is also more environmentally friendly because it utilizes existing infrastructure, like wells and roads that were created for the oil industry. 

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As Prairie Lithium’s technology and processes are modular, its website says, they will easily be able to scale up their lithium extraction efforts in the future. 

Efforts to reach Prairie Lithium’s CEO Zach Maurer were unsuccessful. 

Read: Part 1: Will lithium mining create an economic boom for the Prairies?

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