Learn How 3D models Help Wealth Minerals Communicate Size, Potential, and Sustainability For Its Grassroots Exploration Stage Atacama Project.

Nova Siegmann
Senior Manager, Content & Education
March 21, 2024
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Case Studies

With 46,200 hectares in the lithium-rich Salar de Atacama in Chile, Wealth Minerals is on to something huge and is gaining stakeholder momentum through VRIFY.

Wealth Minerals's Atacama Project

What does 370 cubic kilometers of brine look like? 

Brine is highly salty water that contains lithium in the Chilean salt flats (Salar). Lithium is in high demand as a critical mineral to the global green energy transition. 

Wealth Minerals CEO Henk van Alphen can do a bit of math on the fly to describe how 370 cubic kilometers of brine, conservatively estimated, equates to 37 million tonnes of lithium extracted, or something shy of 1.5 trillion dollars in revenue. Eye-popping numbers, but still: what does that much brine look like, exactly? 

In the VRIFY-driven presentation van Alphen uses to engage Chilean government officials and indigenous communities with the story of the Atacama Project, 370 cubic kilometers of brine come to life. Hint: it's huge. 

"Everybody is amazed by the size potential of the deposit," van Alphen says. "This is a fairly unique project because it's so big." 

It's a unique project that has taken patience, with van Alphen "hanging on for dear life" for the past seven years while government regulations around lithium extraction in Chile have hindered the Atacama Project from moving forward. To date, site activity has been limited to third-party geophysical exploration. 

"It wasn't an easy road because there are claim fees yearly," says van Alphen. "There were times when I had to put the money up myself because no investors were interested." 

But now there's some runway. In the spring of 2023, the new Chilean President, Gabriel Boric, introduced a National Strategy for Lithium, allowing public-private collaboration across the industrial lithium lifecycle—finally, an opportunity to move the project forward. 

There's still work to do, but if Wealth Minerals wins the support of local communities to move into production, the Atacama Project could become one of the largest mining operations in the world. 

The conversations that van Alphen has been having with stakeholders for years have taken on a new dimension, and he has 3D visuals from VRIFY to help illustrate the enormous opportunity hidden below the surface of the Chilean salar. 

Sharing the Story in its Early Stages

Since there was little to do on-site without government approval, the Atacama Project was most active in conversations for years. While waiting, Wealth Minerals focused on continuously presenting to government and community stakeholders, sharing as much information as possible. 

VRIFY became crucial for translating the project's size, potential, and sustainability at its early stage, bringing the concept of what was possible into a fulsome visual form. 

For van Alphen, this meant telling the story of the project's sheer size. 

"When we're talking about the Atacama Project, for comparison, it's like having a copper deposit next to Escondida, the largest copper mine in the world," he says. "You can make a pretty great story out of that." 

To build a 3D model of Atacama at its early exploration stage, it helped to be working with a team who understood the particulars of visualizing geological projects. 

"VRIFY is experienced and is in the mining industry," van Alphen says. "There are other companies that do 3D work but don't know how to put a mining story together. VRIFY has the experience, and the presentation looks very good." 

Through 3D modeling from VRIFY, van Alphen can show government stakeholders "the serious situation in terms of potential" and enrich conversations with visuals that put the impact into a comprehensive context. 

"I can tell you, in this particular case for Atacama, VRIFY works," says van Alphen. "And it's useful for promotional purposes, too. Everybody can say, 'Wow, look at this!'" 

Describing Sustainable Mining with Visual Clarity

Along with Argentina and Bolivia, Chile is part of the "Lithium Triangle," containing more than 75% of the world's lithium supply, and is also one of the driest places on Earth. 

Lithium mining is challenging and historically unsustainable in such a climate because it involves drawing up water and letting it evaporate to extract the minerals. Indigenous communities in the region have felt the impact of water supply loss. 

But Wealth Minerals has a sustainable way forward, with a direct lithium extraction process that runs the brine through filtration and pumps the water back into the salt flats. Direct extraction achieves 98% water recovery, while the evaporation method sees 99.5% water loss. 

Wealth Minerals' VRIFY presentation brings this striking comparison into visual form, aiding van Alphen in his conversations about the project's footprint.  

"VRIFY has been very useful for me to demonstrate the impact of direct lithium extraction," says van Alphen. "When you see a picture of what this looks like, it becomes a reality: you see these massive evaporation plants, and then this tiny direct lithium extraction plant for comparison." 

Leveraging the Impact of a 3D Visual Presentation

Three hundred seventy cubic kilometers of brine in the Salar de Atacama represents possibility. The possibility of extracting enough lithium sustainably to have a tangible effect on propelling the green energy transition. The possibility of billions of dollars in taxation and royalties to benefit the Chilean government and indigenous communities. The possibility for van Alphen to contribute to the discovery of the largest mining operations in the world. 

With a vision so enormous, and an even larger land position, there's much to describe with more than words. van Alphen recognizes the power of an impactful visual presentation to make an idea memorable. 

Years ago, he saw mining mogul Robert Friedland give a presentation for a project in Mongolia. It was the first time van Alphen had seen 3D visuals for a geological model. 

"Everyone who saw it was enormously impressed," van Alphen remembers. "It was truly unbelievable."

Now with immersive 3D models from VRIFY, van Alphen is sharing the vision of the Atacama Project with the people whose consideration of lithium mining in Chile matters the most, making it real enough as though to almost touch.

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