Pilbara Minerals has started commissioning the Ngungaju plant at its Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project in Western Australia to deliver around half a million dry metric tonnes of spodumene concentrate by June 2022.
The company is expecting to produce between 460,000 dry metric tonnes per annum and 510,000 dry metric tonnes of spodumene for the 2021-22 financial year from Ngungaju and the Pilgan plants.
Pilbara Minerals is also on track to produce 560,000 to 580,000 tonnes per annum of spodumene concentrate by the middle of 2022.
In January, the company completed a $201 million acquisition of the Altura lithium project (now Ngungaju operations) in Western Australia , which has also increased Pilgangoora output.
The staged ramp up will take Ngungaju out of care and maintenance for the first time since Pilbara Minerals acquired the plant.
“This is a great result, which marks the culmination of the incredible hard work which our entire team has put in to transform the amazing resource at Pilgangoora into a globally significant lithium raw materials production centre,” Pilbara Minerals managing director and chief executive officer Ken Brinsden said.
“This first step of the Ngungaju restart has been delivered in less than four months since the board approved a staged restart of Ngungaju, ahead of the guidance we gave to the market.
“This is a tremendous result, particularly considering the challenging environment in the WA resource sector for people, equipment and services. Pilbara’s great people and all of our important partners have done an amazing job delivering a rapid re-start.
The company also completed its second spodumene concentrate auction through its battery metals exchange (BMX) platform last month, selling 8000 tonnes of spodumene for $US2240 ($3052) per tonne.
“With market conditions remaining extremely buoyant and the spodumene concentrate market continuing to show signs of being extremely short of supply, the Ngungaju Plant is expected to be capable of delivering uncommitted tonnes into the emerging spot market including through our BMX platform,” Brinsden said.
“We think that will be a very positive development for the market overall, increasing traded volumes, transparency and ultimately supporting the growth of the lithium raw materials supply chain globally.”
Pilbara Minerals has also increased its ore reserve at the Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum operation in Western Australia by 47 per cent as it looks to expand the site to 6.3 million tonnes per annum.
Pilgangoora’s ore reserve now stands at 1.9 million tonnes of contained lithium oxide and is based on the company’s mineral resource estimate of 308.9 million tonnes grading at 11.4 per cent lithium oxide and 105 parts per million tantalum oxide.
The ore reserve is based on a $US588 ($806.32) per tonne of spodumene concentrate price and a long-term price projection of $US700 per tonne for Pilgangoora’s smaller pits.
The company will aim to further grow its resources and reserves through upcoming drilling campaigns at Pilgangoora.
Pilbara Minerals shipped 281,440 dry metric tonnes of spodumene concentrates at $519 per dry tonne from Pilgangoora in the 2020-21 financial year.