Study supports Pilgangoora Li output expansion
Johannesburg, 13 February (Argus) — Australian lithium developer Pilbara Minerals has completed a pre-feasibility study which supports the development of a second phase of its Pilgangoora project in Western Australia.
This phase would increase lithium concentrate output to 800,000 t/yr or 100,000 t/yr of lithium carbonate equivalent.
"The compelling results of the stage two pre-feasibility provided a clear pathway to unlock further value in the Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum resource and cement its position as a globally significant, low-cost supplier of lithium raw materials for decades to come," Pilbara Minerals' chief executive Ken Brinsden said.
A definitive feasibility study is underway to increase ore throughput to 5mn t/yr from 2mn t/yr in the first phase of the project. It is expected to produce first output in the second quarter of this year.
Pilgangoora will be the world's largest hard rock lithium project if phase two gets the investment go-ahead. An investment decision is expected in the third quarter of this year. Construction will start in the fourth quarter and output expected in the fourth quarter of 2019.
The enlarged project is expected to produce around 780,000 t/yr of tantalite.
The phase two expansion project is based on Pilgangoora's 80mn t ore reserve over a mine life of 17 years, compared to 40 years for the first phase. The capital development cost is estimated at A$207mn ($165mn) with life of mine revenue of A$11.5bn based on an average lithium concentrate price of $594/t.
Operating costs are expected to average $210/t over the first five years of the phase two expansion with a payback period of three years. Further drilling is underway to increases resources and reserves for the overall Pilgangoora project.
The phase two expansion project has been supported by cornerstone investors and offtake partners, the company said. Chinese offtake partners Ganfeng Lithium and Great Wall Motors are committed to offtake agreements totalling 600,000 t/yr of lithium concentrate from the first and second phases of the project.