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Lithium Brine Project Development: Challenges and Lessons Learned

Pablo Cortegoso
Monday, April 9, 2018
First presented: 
The Geological Society of London
Civil Engineering
Brine extraction for surface process and recovery of potash, lithium, boron and industrial salt requires the application of traditional hydrogeological-hydrogeochemical theories to hyper-saline solutions. Such brines present additional technical challenges in comparison to fresh water due to density effects, salinity, density driven multichemical composition flow on a large scale, and interaction between brines and fresh water over the course of the production period. Surface production facilities require an estimation of brine composition over time. Therefore, the specialists (hydrogeologist, geologists, geochemists, etc.) are tasked to incorporate this estimation in all project steps, including exploration and sampling plans, balancing extraction rates from multiple production wells, locating the production wells in space (and time), predicting chemical composition of the pre-pumping and extracted brines and monitoring depletion of a “dynamic” resource. Predictions requires both accurate site information and an in-depth understanding of the limitations of the tools used. Each of these parameters can have a significant impact on project economics. The parameters such as effective porosity, permeability, anisotropy, aquifer configuration (extent, thickness and heterogeneity), and wellfield efficiency are key in the estimation of resources and reserves for a brine extraction project. During the stages of prefeasibility and feasibility, an accurately built numerical groundwater model is required in order to develop a production plan and accurately predicting the brine composition is key to a sustainable operation.
This presentation examines the technical aspects of conducting a proper evaluation from exploration to exploitation that will feed the precise parameters to the numerical groundwater model and therefore define a production plan and estimate extractable brine resources and reserves.
This presentation will also discuss the challenges and lessons learned from lithium brine projects in development around the world, from early exploration to production.

Feature Author

Pablo Cortegoso
Pablo Cortegoso is a Civil Engineer with over 8 years of experience in civil and mining projects; specializing in lithium brine projects. His main areas of focus are surface water hydrology and modeling, project management, design and implementation of field programs and data collection and analysis for hydrogeological and geotechnical studies. Mr. Cortegoso has extensive experience in hydrogeological field programs, with an emphasis on lithium brine deposits, including well designs, packer testing and aquifer tests. Mr. Cortegoso expertise includes solar pond evaporation design, modeling and operation for lithium and potassium brine projects. Mr. Cortegoso has been a key member in the preparation and completion of Technical Due Diligences, Technical Reports (Mineral Resource and Reserve Statements), Preliminary Economic Assessments, Pre-Feasibility and Definitive Feasibility Studies in accordance with NI 43-101 and JORC Guidelines for lithium brine projects throughout Argentina, Chile, USA, UK and Botswana.


Lithium Project Development Specialist
MSc Civil Engineering
SRK Denver
SRK Africa