Lithium Mining Work Goes On, With COVID-19 Precautions

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A Canadian company working to prove a commercial process of extracting battery-grade lithium for Arkansas’ underground brine streams is keeping up its testing at a pilot plant near El Dorado applying new safety rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Standard Lithium Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia, has partnered with German chemical multinational Lanxess by connecting a modular plant to test the commercial viability of Standard’s proprietary process for pulling lithium from saltwater wells already used in Lanxess’ facilities reaping bromine from the same waters.

Now linked to Lanxess’ existing pipeline, Standard intends to keep its pilot plant running with a minimal staff on-site while screening all visitors and employees reporting for their shifts. Workers showing symptoms or reporting close contact with someone symptomatic are being kept home, and all international travel outside the U.S. and Canada has been suspended.

Employees who are able have been working at home, including process engineering and optimization, and in-person meetings are discouraged. 

“Commissioning work at the Arkansas site continues with no significant negative impacts to date beyond the implementation of additional education and safety measures,” Standard Lithium said in a statement. “However it is too early to predict the potential full impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The company will provide additional updates regarding the successful completion of milestones in the near future.”