Pilbara Minerals will add another 100,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of capacity to its Pilgangoora project in Western Australia after the board approved proposed plant upgrades.
The P680 project will see the lithium miner make a $297.5 million investment in its Pilgan plant, with processing improvements paving the way for spodumene concentrate production to increase from 580,000 to 680,000tpa.
Pilbara Minerals said it would be able to achieve at least 640,000tpa of spodumene concentrate production by the December quarter of 2023.
The total capital would be allocated to a new primary rejection heavy media separation circuit ($103 million) and an integrated crushing and ore-sorting facility ($194.5 million) capable of processing up to five million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of ore throughput.
Within the $297.5 million outlay, Pilbara Minerals has allocated $50 million towards pre-investment capital to support future expansions up to 1Mtpa of spodumene concentrate production.
The ASX-200 miner will commence construction on the new separation circuit and crushing and ore-sorting facility in the September quarter of 2022, with the two developments expected to be operating at full capacity by the June quarter of 2024.
Some of the increased production will support Pilbara Minerals’ chemical conversion facility currently being developed in South Korea (in partnership with POSCO), while an allocation will also go towards offtake agreements.
The company said it continued to receive strong interest in long-term spodumene supply contracts from its existing customer base and other industry participants.
Pilbara Minerals managing director and chief executive officer Dale Henderson said boosting Pilgan was an important milestone for the company.
“(The decision) reinforces the exceptional scale and quality of our Pilgangoora project, which is one of the few hard rock lithium production operations globally that has both the resource size and existing operating platform to enable a rapid scale-up of production,” he said.
“This increase in production capacity will enable the company to continue to capitalise on the opportunities in the lithium chemicals market, being driven by rapid transition to decarbonisation through technologies such as electric vehicles and battery storage.”