Arena Minerals Inc. (“Arena” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce evaporation pond construction has been completed at its Sal de la Puna Project (“SDLP Project”) located in the Pastos Grandes basin within Salta province, Argentina. The evaporation pilot pond covers a total of 10,000 m2 and has been filled with raw brine from the Almafuerte claim block. The evaporation pond has been designed to produce >35% lithium chloride (“LiCl”) (6% lithium) from SDLP raw brine.
The pilot pond was built according to engineering design utilizing only in-situ material. Soil mechanics showed favorable parameters such as soil type, particle size distribution, and compaction properties making the Blanca Lila formation, which covers most of Almafuerte and Graciela claim blocks, an attractive site for the construction of a production complex. The favorable soil conditions eliminated the need for geotextile layers under the liner, reducing the overall cost of construction. The pond has been filled to operating brine height with Pastos Grandes raw brine averaging 558 mg/l Li. A permanent salt floor is being deposited over the liner to protect the liner during harvesting. Once the permanent salt floor design thickness has reached design specifications, internal walls shall be constructed using waste sodium chloride covered with HDPE.
Eduardo Morales, Executive Chairman of Arena, commented, “We are extremely pleased with progress to date at SDLP. Construction of the ponds was completed on schedule and budget, setting a solid foundation for the completion of detailed engineering of commercial-sized ponds. We are in the process of selecting engineering firms for the design of a 40,000 tonne per annum lithium chloride facility, which will incorporate the results of an economic assessment including capital and operating cost estimates.”
Since the acquisition of the Sal de la Puna project Arena has developed a healthy relationship with local communities. The strength and support shown by the local communities for the Project are also a testament to the long-standing relationships existing with Arena’s operations team, many of whom have been operating in the immediate region for over a decade.
Arena’s business model and processing approach provide an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to the more conventional liming process that traditionally requires a chemical plant on site. In aiming to produce >35% LiCl directly from ponds, Arena does not require a more environmentally sensitive liming plant while minimizing the use (to almost zero consumption) of both power and freshwater thus reducing our carbon footprint. The Arena process is powered by solar energy (evaporation) and does not employ fresh water. The only power and water required are for the camp and minor ancillary services, such as pumping. Like most lithium brine projects in the Puna region of Argentina, Sal de la Puna is located in a high-altitude desert where both power and water are scarce commodities.
A production Environmental Impact Study (“EIS”) has been submitted to the mining authorities in Salta for the permitting of a 40,000 tonne per annum lithium chloride facility. The study evaluates the impact of constructing 490 hectares of lined evaporation ponds, thirteen production wells, and related ancillary infrastructure on the Almafuerte and Graciela claim blocks. These claim blocks are primarily covered by the Blanca Lila geological formation where the 1-hectare pilot pond has been constructed with favorable results. The lithium-bearing aquifers targeted by the good field are interpreted as hydraulically separate from any surface waters and therefore of minimal impact on the basin habitats. The Company is working closely with the authorities on minimizing any potential impacts in a timely manner while ensuring the local communities and provincial governments benefit from value-add lithium products.
Arena owns 65% of the Sal de la Puna Project covering approximately 13,200 hectares of the Pastos Grandes basin located in Salta, Argentina. The claims are highly prospective and share the basin with two advanced lithium brine projects. In addition to Sal de la Puna, the Company owns the Antofalla lithium brine project in Argentina, consisting of four claims covering a total of 6,000 hectares of the central portion of Salar de Antofalla, located immediately south of Albemarle Corporation’s Antofalla project. Arena has developed a proprietary brine processing technology using brine-type reagents derived from the Antofalla project with the objective of producing more competitive battery-grade lithium products.
Arena also owns 80 percent of the Atacama Copper property within the Antofagasta region of Chile and 5.8 million shares of Astra Exploration. The projects are at low altitudes, within producing mining camps in infrastructure-rich areas, located in the heart of Chile’s premier copper mining district.
For more information regarding the Company, its management, expertise, and projects, please visit www.arenaminerals.com.
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