A Regina based company is extracting lithium from salty underground water in Saskatchewan.
Prairie Lithium finished drilling the province's first dedicated lithium well in southeast Saskatchewan this fall, .
"As momentum around lithium grows, we are really well placed in Saskatchewan to make the most of its potential," said Brownwyn Eyre, the minister for energy and resources, at a press conference yesterday.
Eyre said lithium is "having a moment" right now, and the demand is expected to increase by five fold by 2030. Lithium is is used in the manufacturing of portable electronic devices, electric vehicles and other technologies.
The way the company extracts the lithium is through pumping salty underground water to the surface. The water is then mixed with an ion exchange material in a tank, and is eventually converted into lithium chloride.
"In that well we also discovered some of the highest lithium concentrations I've ever seen in Canada," said Zach Maurer, the president of Prairie Lithium.
Prairie Lithium has been using technology to extract lithium from subsurface brine water since 2020, when the company's first extraction tests happened. It has a pilot project processing facility in Emerald Park, which extracted 99.7 per cent of lithium from brine water. The company is focused on scaling up at the moment, and is working on identifying how much lithium it can produce.
Eyre said most of the lithium around the world is mined or leached from ores using acid, but Prairie Lithium uses oilfield brine, which she called a "beautiful irony."
"Oilfield brines will power the electric cars of the future, what's not green about that?" she said.
Eyre said that 95 per cent of lithium is produced in other countries, and Saskatchewan has an opportunity to be a part of a global conversation.
She also said that the extraction of lithium isn't necessarily meant to replace the oil or gas industry, but is meant to complement it.
When asked about a potential contradiction between putting an electric vehicle tax/fee, and making a push for lithium extraction (which would be used for electric vehicles) Eyre said the global demand for lithium is "much larger than who is driving on the roads in Saskatchewan."
She said the fee was just about a fair approach to road use, and that in terms of a global outlook, lithium extraction would put Saskatchewan on the map.