ABB to optimize ioneer's Rhyolite Ridge
To apply world-class technology to Nevada lithium operation Metal Tech News - February 14, 2022
Last updated 2/14/2022 at 4:40am
Seeking every advantage when it comes to the efficient and sustainable production of lithium and boron at its Rhyolite Ridge project in Nevada, ioneer Ltd. has turned to the expertise of ABB, global leader in electrification, automation, and digitalization for mining and other industrial sectors.
"ABB is focused on providing environmentally sound engineering and technology solutions," said ioneer Managing Director Bernard Rowe. "This aligns with ioneer's ambition to not only produce materials necessary for electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure, but to do so in an efficient and environmentally responsible way through lowered emissions, significantly reduced water usage and a small surface footprint."
The mine and processing facilities ioneer plans to develop at Rhyolite Ridge would produce an average of around 22,000 metric tons of the lithium needed for the batteries powering EVs and storing renewable energy storage, plus 174,400 metric tons of boric acid per year.
This operation, which lies about 200 highway miles southeast of Tesla Gigafactory Nevada, is slated to start off by producing lithium carbonate during the first three years before adding a plant that would upgrade this product into battery-grade lithium hydroxide, according to a 2020 feasibility study.
ABB, which has been electrifying mines since it installed the electric drive systems on a hoist at a Swedish iron mine in 1891, will apply its 130 years of experience into engineering and optimizing the major systems to be installed at the proposed mine and processing plants at Rhyolite Ridge.
This includes the use of ABB Ability MineOptimize to streamline the electrical generation, distribution, and management systems, as well as plant-wide process automation and instrumentation systems at Rhyolite Ridge.
ABB says its comprehensive portfolio of MineOptimize engineering services, electrification and automation solutions, digital applications, and remote services allows mining companies to integrate individual solutions into a connected and structured operations-wide system to optimize all stages of mining and minerals processing to maximize productivity, sustainability, and safety.
"This contract provides clear recognition of our experience, know-how and world-class technologies," said Joachim Braun, division president of process industries at ABB. "It is also important to note that our localized approach and strength in service and aftermarket were important factors for ioneer when it came to choosing a partner."
While efficiency, sustainability, and safety are important at all mines, for projects that will supply the necessary minerals and metals for the low-carbon transportation and energy sectors, these factors are especially crucial.
Rhyolite Ridge is the only known lithium-boron deposit in North America and one of only two such deposits in the world. As a result, it is expected to become a globally significant, long-life, cost-effective source of lithium. One of the reasons for this is the production and sale of the boron produced there will help pay for some of the mining and processing expenses, driving down the costs of producing the lithium.
It is expected that the electrification, automation, and digitalization solutions provided by ABB will add further efficiencies to the operation.
"The Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project represents an opportunity for the U.S. and the world to ensure the supply of the minerals needed to successfully transition to sustainable transport and we're proud to be part of it," said Braun.
With both companies positioned to play an important role in this transition, ioneer and ABB are founding members of the Zero Emissions Transportation Association, or ZETA, an industry coalition advocating for the full adoption of electric vehicles by 2030.
This target is even more aggressive than the Biden administration's goal of 50% of all vehicles sold in the United States being electric by 2030. Even so, the White House's electric mobility objectives are ambitious, and it is directing billions of dollars toward this objective.
Believing the Rhyolite Ridge project could provide an efficient and sustainable source of the lithium needed for America's rapidly growing EV and renewable energy storage sectors, the U.S. Department of Energy is in the final stages of approving ioneer's application for a loan that would provide funds to develop the Nevada battery metals mine and processing facilities.
"We are pleased to have reached this milestone in our discussions with the U.S. DOE and we look forward to working through due diligence under the ATVM (Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing) loan program," Rowe said in December. "We believe the Rhyolite Ridge project, with its ability to produce lithium materials onsite, will be an integral part of the U.S. electric vehicle supply chain."
Further details on the loan process for Rhyolite Ridge and economics of the project can be read at Rhyolite Ridge nears DOE loan approval in the December 22, 2021 edition of Metal Tech News.