Jadarite – a global project
The story then unfolded at Rio Tinto’s boron operation in California, where scientists began the process of establishing the best way of separating the borate and the lithium, supported by the company’s research facility in Melbourne.
“Finding a mineral with such high concentrations of borate and lithium is extraordinary but we still have to find a commercially viable means of breaking it down into its component parts,” chemical engineer Gary Davis, a key member of the jadarite processing team.
“We’ve assembled a pilot plant in our Melbourne support facility that demonstrates the process of separating the elements. It’s been constructed inside a large shipping container so it can be sent to Serbia and used as a model when they build on the mine site,” says Gary.
While borate is an extremely important metal for the modern world – it is used in fibreglass and has allowed television, computer and telephone screens to become thinner – the jadarite project is exciting interest around the world because of increased demand for lithium.
“Lithium is extremely reactive and the lightest of all the metals. So it has become important in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries, especially batteries for electric cars where weight is a crucial factor,” says Geoffrey Boddy, Melbourne team leader of the jadarite processing team.
Geoff says that the process of helping to bring the Jadarite online has been the most exciting project of his professional career.
“We’re helping to develop a process that will not only be good for humanity but create jobs for generations to come. Our children’s children will benefit from the work we’re doing here today,” says Geoff.