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ECONOMY | 07-09-2023 12:46

Start-up summit Nanotech eyes US$150 million funding for a new way to mine lithium

Summit Nanotech Corp, a Canadian start-up working on a way to hasten extraction of lithium from South American salt flats, plans to raise US$150 million to take the technology to commercial scale.

Summit Nanotech Corp, a Canadian start-up working on a way to hasten extraction of lithium from South American salt flats, plans to raise US$150 million to take the technology to commercial scale.

“We’re already engaging investors and we’re building the data room,” Chief Executive Officer Amanda Hall said Wednesday in an interview on the sidelines of an industry event in Santiago. She’s hopeful the Series B financing round will reflect a valuation of US$400 million to US$600 million. “Right after Christmas we’ll open it up.”

The Calgary-based firm is among dozens of companies racing to commercialise technology to extract lithium directly from brine — a cheaper, faster and greener method than using traditional evaporation ponds in salt flats of Chile and Argentina. If it works at scale, direct lithium extraction offers the promise of abundant supply of a battery metal that’s essential to weaning the world off fossil fuels.

Summit Nanotech is firing up a new testing facility in Santiago this week as it prepares to have a demonstration plant in the field by mid-2024 and reach commercial scale by the end of 2025, Hall said. The company uses a patented material to absorb the metal and is looking into how to return what is left over back into underground brine lakes, applying knowledge gleaned from Alberta’s oil fields.

Hall wants to use the technology to enter into projects in Chile, replicating an existing arrangement in Argentina. The closely held firm is in talks with prospective partners in Chile, where the government has made direct extraction a requirement as it opens up new lithium areas.

Beyond the upcoming financing round, Summit Nanotech may look to go public or be acquired by a lithium producer or electric-vehicle maker. Current investors are pushing the acquisition route, Hall said. While would-be buyers have been “kicking tires,” there haven’t been any offers yet as she works on pushing up the firm’s value.

by James Attwood, Bloomberg

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