Lithium Americas has announced an increase in mineral resource estimate to 13.7 million tonnes (Mt) of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) for its Thacker Pass lithium project in the US.

The resource has been updated from the 2018 preliminary feasibility study (2018 PFS), and includes new drilling within the project’s plan of operations and the south exploration area.

Located in Humboldt County, Nevada, Thacker Pass project is a large-scale lithium resources in the US, developed by Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Lithium Americas.

According to the project’s 2018 PFS, the open-pit lithium mine has an annual production capacity of 60,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) for a mine life of 46 years.

Lithium Americas president and CEO Jonathan Evans said: “As the US electric vehicle supply chain continues to grow, we remain committed to developing Thacker Pass with all of our stakeholders’ interests in mind.

“This includes ensuring we move the right project forward to align Thacker Pass with the growing needs of our potential customers and strategic partners.”

Lithium Americas said that the increase in the mineral resource is primarily due to change in cut-off grade, along with increase in the number of drill holes from 276 to 366.

The company intends to advance the ongoing feasibility study aiming an initial production capacity to 40,000tpa of lithium carbonate from the previous 30,000-35,000tpa in the first phase.

According to the company, the targeted capacity has been increased to reflect the mine plan optimisations and leaching efficiencies.

Lithium Americas is also designing a feasibility study for a potential phase 2 expansion scenario, targeting a total capacity of 80,000tpa. The timing of the feasibility study is expected to be revealed by early 2022.

Furthermore, permitting process is on track and the final decision is expected in first quarter 2022, with all key state permits to be released for public comment in fourth quarter 2021.

In January this year, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Thacker Pass lithium project.

Evans added: “The world needs more large-scale and environmentally responsible lithium projects to enable the clean energy transition.

“With Thacker Pass moving closer towards construction, in Argentina our team remains focused on bringing the Caucharí-Olaroz lithium brine project online in the next twelve months as the largest new lithium carbonate operation in over 20 years.”