The 3Q Project
The 3Q Project is located in the southern end of the “Lithium Triangle” in the Puna Plateau. The area is characterized by high altitude salt flats, many of which contain elevated lithium concentrations. The largest brine lithium mines and projects in the world are located in salars in the Lithium Triangle including Atacama Salar (SQM and Albermarle), Cauchari-Olaroz Salar (Orocobre and Lithium Americas Corp) and Hombre Muerto Salar (FMC and Galaxy).
LOCATION & INFRASTRUCTURE
The Project is located in the southwestern portion of the Catamarca Province of Argentina, the largest Lithium producer province of Argentina. The closest paved road to the Project is Ruta Nacional 60, which connects the capital city of Catamarca (San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca) to Copiapó and the seaport of Caldera, via Paso de San Francisco. The closest population centre to the Project is the town of Fiambalá, Argentina (population 5,000), located 100 km east of the Project
There are no aboriginal communities or inhabitants in the Project area, which is only 25 km from the border with Chile, and approximately 30kms from the Maricunga Salar. The Maricunga Salar is another high grade lithium brine project that is located over a highway 210 km away from the Chilean port of Caldera (Copiapo). That means that with minimal infrastructure 3Q would be the closest Argentinean project to a Chilean port. Other Lithium projects in the same Province Include FMC Fenix Lithium Mine and Galaxy Sal de Vida Project.
THE NORTHERN TARGET
The northern portion of the salar and brine reservoir complex now encompasses a high grade target that extends for approximately 20 km in length and 5 km in width along the 3Q brine reservoir and salar. Samples in the brine reservoir (28 in total) contained an average Lithium concentration of 895 mg/l and Potassium of 7,694 mg/L and samples in the salar (32 in total) contained an average Lithium concentration of 784 mg/l and Potassium of 6,796 mg/L (lithium concentrations in both zones range between 400 to 4,000 mg/L and Potassium concentrations between 5,100 to 18,000 mg/L). Preliminary brine sampling results indicate these values are comparable and in most cases higher than current producing mines or projects in construction.
The preliminary brine sampling results also indicate that the northern target of the 3Q brine reservoir and salar contains remarkably low impurities, which when compared to lithium brine projects around the world they are considered to be one of the lowest known amount of combined impurities in the industry. The average Magnesium/Lithium ratio is between 1.58 Mg/Li in the brine reservoir to 1.87 Mg/Li in the salar and the average Sulphate/Lithium ratio is between 0.46 SO4/Li in the salar to 0.67 SO4/Li in the brine reservoir. Sulfate and Magnesium are critical impurities in Lithium brine projects because they could increase operational costs significantly and many projects become uneconomic at high impurity levels.
The northern target is surrounded by many geothermal springs. The Company has sampled approximately 12 of the geothermal springs, some of which have returned exceptionally high values of lithium (over 1000 mg/l Lithium). Further exploration work is required to understand the source of lithium (thermal springs typically contain less than 100 mg/L lithium, according to public data), the 3Q Project appears to be receiving a permanent input of metals from hot springs that are the largest input of water into the recharge system that is creating a very particular chemical footprint to the salar and creating exceptionally favourable conditions for lithium concentration in the natural lakes that are created.
Lithium Brine Process Studies
Neo Lithium has received positive results from the final engineering reports by Novigi Ltd. (Santiago, Chile) and Celimin (Center for Advanced Research on Lithium and Industrial Minerals of Antofagasta University), both reputable organizations at arm's length to the Company, on the process required to produce lithium from the 3Q Project's brine. A representative 0.5 tonne sample of the Northern Target was collected on January 2016 and sent for process studies.
The results of these studies show that Northern Target lithium brine can be concentrated by simple solar evaporation, with no costly additives required, to up to 2.6% lithium in approximately eight months. The results also show that with minimal cleaning using lime and sodium sulfate, the brine can be further concentrated up to 4.6% lithium. Further evaporation to approximately 7% lithium is feasible but further studies are on-going to define the evaporation time to achieve that concentration.
The results of the studies show that recovery of the ponds should be approximately 25 tonnes of lithium carbonate per hectare of pond constructed, comparable to other projects in the region. The results of the studies also demonstrate that the brine could produce potash as a by-product during the evaporation process although volumes and quality will require further studies.
With these results in hand the Company has already designed a pilot pond series that will be constructed on site covering an area of approximately 1 ha to test these study results at the project. Construction is expected to start in the next 30 days.
Final geophysical survey from Conhidro SRL on the 3Q Project were received in early December. Vertical Electrical Sounding (VES) was completed in thirty-five stations covering the entire 3Q Project and the alluvial cones surrounding the 3Q lithium brine northern reservoir. This geophysical technique attempts to detect the presence of brine at depth, which is highly conductive.
Results suggest that the brine bearing layers under the northern reservoir extend down over 100 metres and also extend horizontally under the surrounding alluvial cones for approximately 2 km to the east and 1 km to the west (to the end of the survey lines). In other words, the results suggest a doubling in the surface footprint of the northern reservoir down to a depth of approximately 100 metres.
The initial geophysical survey results were reported by the Company on November 28, 2016. The results of the full survey suggest that the saturated and semi-saturated layers extend the northern target for approximately another 6 km to the south. In addition, these results suggest that the brine saturated layers go down to approximate 100 metres from the surface and the semi-saturated layers go down in certain areas as deep as approximately 300 metres (to the end of the resolution of the geophysical survey).
In summary, these results suggest the northern target’s footprint (including the northern reservoir and northern salar) has increased from our original 14 km by 3 km to approximately 20 km by 5 km and extends down to approximately 100 metres under the northern reservoir and as deep as 300 metres under some sectors of the 3Q salar.