A mine and a plant

The project is located in the Centenario Ratones salt flat, in the department of Los Andes, province of Salta, Argentina. This region is known as “Puna salteña” which is about 3,800 meters above sea level, has an arid climate, strong gusts of wind and low temperatures that can reach -18ºC.

The design of all the mining camp facilities is adequate to develop the planned activities under these conditions, and at the same time, avoid and/or minimize negative impacts.

Environmental and social impact studies are carried out periodically to detect this in time.

The mine: Our mining is carried out through a non-conventional lithium extraction process, through the drilling of 450 meters below the surface. They are located strategically. Through the pumping process, the brine is extracted from a 20 cm diameter pipe, and finally transferred to the production plant with a piping system. This entire process meets high safety standards and is designed to minimize environmental impact.

The plant: uses a direct extraction process developed by Eramet Ideas. This process is currently carried out in the pilot plant and achieves a yield of over 90%, with a processing period of about 24 hours, while the traditional process (natural evaporation in pools) offers less than 50% yield in 18 months. This allows us to maximize the efficiency of processing times and, consequently, the use of resources.

Thanks to this method, Eramine is able to increase the fresh water-recycling rate by 60%. This is one of the innovations we have devised to optimize our process with the objective of “producing better.”

Eramet Ideas, which is Eramet’s R&D, is based in Trappes, close to Paris. Its teams have designed an innovative and environmentally-friendly extraction process that substitutes the traditional evaporation method (using ponds), with a two-stage process. This process has been developed in cooperation with IFPEN (French Institute of Petroleum and New Energies) and Seprosy. Once it had been developed in Trappes, the pilot plant was moved to Argentina, where it was launched successfully in 2019.

Training the future employees in our on-site pilot plant

During the time that activities were halted due to the Covid 19, a group of people continued to operate the Pilot Plant and this instance served as training.

Once the industrial scale Production Plant is ready, it is estimated that there will be around 280 people who will operate it.

Learn more about our production process here:

Working according to best practices: IRMA

Eramine has initiated the process of obtaining IRMA (Standard for Responsible Mining) certification, which is the world’s most comprehensive and rigorous definition of best practices for industrial-scale mining, with a higher standard than any country’s laws. The external audit is scheduled for 2023, has multi-stakeholder governance (NGOs, mining industry, international unions, intermediate buyers, investors and finance, etc.) and covers the following items:

  • Environmental Protection
  • Community Relations
  • Human Rights

IRMA’s vision is “a world in which the mining industry respects the human rights and aspirations of affected communities, provides a safe, healthy and enabling workplace, minimizes environmental damage and leaves positive legacies.”