Hombre Muerto West lithium brine project (HMW Project) is located in the Western Basin of the Hombre Muerto Salar in Catamarca Province, Argentina. (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Wikipedia)
The total HMW Mineral Resource is estimated to be 6.6Mt of contained LCE grading at 880 mg/L Li. (Credit: Tomihahndorf at German Wikipedia)
The project is the flagship property of ASX-listed Galan Lithium. (Credit: Aariuser I/Wikipedia)

Hombre Muerto West (HMW) is a lithium brine project located in Argentina. The project is the flagship property of ASX-listed Galan Lithium.

In December 2020, the company announced positive results of the Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) of the HMW project. An updated PEA study for the HNW project was announced in December 2021.

The results of Phase I Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) were published in July 2023. According to the study, the first phase will deliver 5.4 kilo tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) annually for a period of 40 years.

Galan Lithium received full Phase I construction permits in August 2023 from the Catamarca Ministro – Ministerio de Mineria (Mines Department Minister).

Construction works began in the same month, with lithium chloride production is expected to start in the first half of 2025.

Hombre Muerto West Location Details

The Hombre Muerto West Project is located within a salt flat called Hombre Muerto basin in the Argentinean Puna plateau region of the high Andes at around 4,000m above sea level.

It is situated in the geological province of Puna, around 90km north of the town of Antofagasta de la Sierra, province of Catamarca in Argentina. The site is approximately 1,400km northwest of the capital of Buenos Aires.

The project lies near lithium projects owned by Galaxy Resources.

Initially, the HMW Project included six exploration permits- Rana de Sal (I,II and III), Pata Pila, Catalina, and Deceo III (Figure 2) encompassing an area of around 9,493hectares (ha).

The project also includes the Santa Barbara suite of concessions.

Galan Lithium also bought the Del Condor and Pucara lithium brine salar projects totalling an area of 2,104ha.

Geology and Reserves

Mineral resource at the property hosts geologically well-defined zones of high-grade lithium mineralisation.

Sections of alluvial fans located on the western shore of the Hombre Muerto salar proper come under Del Condor, Pucara, Pata Pila/Deceo III and Rana De Sal licence areas.

The salar contains the lithium brine deposit.

The lithium, concentrated in brines hosted within basin-fill alluvial sediments and evaporites, is procured locally from weathered and altered felsic ignimbrites.

In May 2023, an updated mineral resource estimate for Hombre Muerto West was announced. According to the report, the project’s JORC estimate is 6.6Mt of contained LCE at 880 mg/L Li.

Mining and Processing at Hombre Muerto West

The Hombre Muerto West project will employ brine extraction methodology.

The brine extraction will be conducted through seven production wells, with raw brine being pumped to the first pond of the evaporation ponds system.

The recovery process defined for the HMW project involves conventional evaporation ponds and a lithium carbonate plant.

After obtaining brine from wells in the Rana de Sal and Pata Pila areas, it will be pumped to the pre-concentration ponds.

The water from the brine will be allowed to evaporate through solar radiation and wind. The evaporation will generate a change in the equilibrium point of this liquid precipitating salts and the concentration of lithium present in this brine.

Some reagents will be introduced to facilitate the precipitation of impurities. However, this will have no impact on the lithium present in the brine.

Subsequently, the brine will feed into the last pre-concentration ponds and will be put into the concentration ponds for more lithium concentration.

After the brine achieves a lithium concentration that can be treated in the lithium carbonate plant, it will be stored in reservoir ponds.

At an appropriate time, the Li2CO3 plant will treat the brine. This will include removing all remaining contaminants and conducting lithium precipitation.

The product is purified through bi-carbonation and crystallisation to achieve battery grade Li2CO3.

The battery grade lithium carbonate is then dried, reduced in size and packed, and stored in the warehouse before it is shipped to the final client.

According to the DFS, the HMW Phase 1 will deliver an annual production rate of 5,367 recoverable tonnes of LCE. The production plan is for 40 years.

Contractors Involved

The mineral resource estimation for Hombre Muerto West project was undertaken by SRK Consulting (Australasia), while Worley Chile reviewed the recovery method.

Galan awarded a multidisciplinary management, engineering and development consultancy Hatch to undertake Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) for the project.

Galan engaged Quantec Geosciences to undertake a comprehensive geophysical survey technique known as transient electromagnetics (TEM) at all the HMW tenements.

WSP was engaged to provide support and design work, including production wells, for different aspects related to the hydrogeology of the HMW tenements.