Abstract

The recent increase in demand for lithium has led to the development of new brine prospects, particularly in the Central Andes. The brines are hosted in closed basin aquifers of two types: mature, halite dominant, and immature, clastic dominant. The estimate of elemental resources in these salars depends on a detailed knowledge of aquifer geometry, porosity, and brine grade. The geometry of the aquifers can be evaluated by classical geophysical and drilling techniques, but because the resource is a fluid, with the attendant problems of in-aquifer mixing and reorganization, existing codes for filing resource and reserve estimates need modification. Total porosity is relatively straightforward to measure, but effective porosity and specific yield, which are required to estimate the resource, are more difficult. Recovery factors are low compared with most metalliferous and industrial mineral deposits due to reliance on pumping of the brine from wells for extraction. These and related issues lead us to believe that modifications to the existing standards for reporting mineral resources and reserves are required for these prospects.

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