red hills in the Atacama desert
red hills with iron oxide in the Parque national Nevado Tres cruces, Atacama desert

Ensorcia Group proposes lithium extraction with 90% return of brine.

MINING. The company is in the geological and geophysical studies stage in the Tara salt flat located 150 kilometers east of San Pedro de Atacama, as well as in the Miricunga salt flat in Atacama.

Currently only two companies exploit lithium in Chile: the national SQM Salar and the American Albemarle, both in the Salar de Atacama, to which Ensorcia Group could be added, leading two projects, one in the Salar de Tara in the interior of San Pedro and the other in Maricunga in the Atacama Region, and using a much more sustainable technology.

Regarding this new technology, the president of Ensorcia Group (Sorcia Minerals) for Latin America, Rodrigo Dupouy, explained that the traditional method of lithium extraction consists of the installation of large evaporation pools, where the brine is deposited directly from the salt flats and over the course of 12 to 18 months under the sun, it evaporates and in this way 6% lithium is obtained.

“The technology used by Ensorcia Group does not evaporate, but rather extracts the brine, absorbing only the lithium and chlorine, returning over 90% of the extracted brine to the salt flats,” said the executive of the U.S. company.

Dupouy added that the Direct Leaching Technology (DLE) used by Ensorcia Group was developed by Dr. John Burba, of International Battery Metals (IBAT), and consists of extracting the brine directly from the salt, through extraction pipes: “The brine passes through a modular, scalable plant that can be built in 10 days, and through a Selective Absorption method, only the lithium and chlorine are extracted, the process having an efficiency of over 85%. The rest of the brine components are reinjected almost entirely back into the brine. On average, we return at least 90% of the brine to the salar”, he said.

Projects in the area

Regarding its initiatives in the country and in the region specifically, Dupouy explained that “we are currently in the stage of geological and geophysical studies in the Maricunga and Tara salt flats, the former located in the Atacama Region and the latter in the Antofagasta Region. In any case, we are in talks with all the main lithium stakeholders, both public and private, to continue developing in the country and massify our technology, which is the only one that is satisfactorily proven at industrial level and offers greater efficiency in lithium extraction and environmental protection. Our objective is to be one of the main players in the world in the sustainable extraction of lithium”.

A head start

There is constant talk of eventual substitutes for lithium. As to how certain the risk is, Ensorcia group president for Latin America considered that “although there are technologies that can boost electromobility and that are also environmentally friendly, such as green hydrogen, lithium has been explored and used for many years, so there is an advantage in terms of management and knowledge of this mineral”.

“In addition, with new technologies, such as the one we use at Ensorcia Group, the door is open to a more efficient, economic and sustainable exploitation of lithium, so we do not see other technologies as a risk, but perhaps as a complement for a world that is moving decisively towards clean and sustainable energies,” added Dupouy.

Growing demand
The president of Ensorcia Group for Latin America, Rodrigo Dupouy, when asked about what to expect from the international lithium market in the coming years, explained that “lithium is the oil of the 21st century and with the irruption of electromobility, the only thing we see is a panorama of growing demand for this mineral. We expect a stabilization of prices per ton, which we now see as high, but we believe that it is a market in constant growth and expansion”.

“We are aware of the importance of the communities in the different sectors where lithium mining operates, and we believe that respect and good relations are fundamental to achieve our objectives. We have had no problems and we are constantly monitoring with different actors so that everything remains harmonious in the areas where we have a presence”.

Rodrigo Dupouy

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