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Construction Starts on World’s Biggest Lithium Mining, Separation and Smelting Project in China



A lithium salts factory run by Chinese miner Xinjiang Nonferrous Metal Group, that will be part of the world’s biggest integrated project for the mining, separation and smelting of lithium salts, kicked off construction in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region recently.

The facility in Luofu county, Hotan prefecture will have an output of 100,000 tons of lithium compounds a year, Xinjiang Nonferrous said. It will be an important part of a mining and extraction project handling three million tons of precious metals a year in Dahongliutan village in the same prefecture. Together the two projects, once completed, are expected to output 600,000 of high-quality lithium concentrate each year to become the world’s biggest integrated project for lithium resources’ mining, separation and smelting.

Covering an area of 126.7 hectares, the facility will produce 75,000 tons of basic lithium compounds per year in the first phase of construction, including 30,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate, 30,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide as well as 15,000 tonnes of lithium chloride. The output will increase to 100,000 tons a year later, the firm said.

In 2019, Xinjiang Nonferrous won the prospecting rights for rare metals in Hotan with a bid of CNY2 billion (USD287 million). The area has proven spodumene resources of 50 million tonnes and 700,000 tons of lithium oxide. But after exploration is finished, this is expected to increase to around 100 million tons of spodumene ore and 1.5 million tons of lithium oxide. At that time, the Dahongliutan rare metal mining area will become China's new lithium resource base.

Xinjiang Nonferrous Metal Group, which owns the 2nd largest copper and nickel base in western China, had applied 2 sets of VPSA oxygen units (17500/80, 3750/80) from PKU Pioneer to provide cost-effective oxygen for its copper and nickel enriched-oxygen smelting projects, which significantly reduced its production costs. Meanwhile, its predecessor, also the first enterprise in China to engage in lithium ore exploration and lithium salt production, had established a complete lithium industry chain in 1959, which laid a solid foundation for the rapid development of China's lithium industry. At present, Xinjiang Nonferrous Metal Group is strengthening discussions with scientific research institutes and new energy head enterprises, planning to invest RMB30 billion to lay out the closed-loop supply chain of new-energy lithium products in a stepwise manner, with the intention of building a lithium industry of 100 billion output value in the territory.

In 2022, with China's new energy vehicle production and sales growing significantly, the demand for lithium carbonate exceeded the supply. According to the lithium branch of the China Non-Ferrous Metals Industry Association, China produced 395,000 tons of lithium carbonate last year (with a production capacity of 600,000 tons), a year-on-year increase of about 32.5%, and 246,400 tons of lithium hydroxide (capacity of about 360,000 tons), an increase of about 29.5% year-on-year, proving that in 2022, China's lithium industry still maintained a fast growth and will usher in more massive and high-quality development in 2023.

As a global leading manufacturer of industrial oxygen equipment, PKU Pioneer has become a distinguished partner of the lithium industry. Our VPSA and PSA oxygen production technology can be applied to the manufacturing of lithium batteries by providing oxygen gas as a protective gas for lithium electrode sheet production, which is more effective in reducing lithium loss rate compared with N2. In 2021, CATL, a China leading manufacturer of new energy batteries, adopted our VPSA oxygen production equipment to supply oxygen protective gas, it is the first case of applying VPSA oxygen generation technology to China's lithium-ion battery industry. In addition, VPSA oxygen systems can also provide oxygen for the sintering process of high-nickel ternary positive electrode material, which can strongly improve the product quality and efficiency.

With high-quality technical services and solutions, PKU Pioneer has provided stable, safe and high-grade oxygen supply guarantees for 400+ customers in various fields worldwide. We will continue to highlight technical innovation and product optimization to help our users achieve better economic benefits as well as promote the sustainable development of all industrial fields.