Pilbara Minerals Limited announced that it is on track for its first shipment of spodumene concentrate from its 100%-owned Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum project this month after making further strong progress with the production ramp-up.


Image: Spodumene concentrate truck loading. Photo courtesy of Pilbara Minerals Limited.

The Pilgangoora Stage 1 concentrator is achieving strong production throughput for both coarse and fines circuits. Combined tonnages are averaging above 500t/day which are in alignment with the planned throughput levels expected at this point of ramp-up. Both circuits are achieving exceptional product quality, confirming the ability of the Pilgangoora Project to deliver a premium quality product to world markets.

Spodumene concentrate recovery at the Pilgangoora Project’s concentrator is achieved through Dense Media Separation (DMS) of the ore to a coarse concentrate, followed by fines flotation to recover the remaining spodumene. Both circuits are now load commissioned and contributing to the production of saleable product.

Plant run-rates have continued to increase and have been achieving design capacity input tonnes (of approximately 270 tonnes per hour) over a 24-hour period, through the combined coarse and fines concentrate production circuits. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of Pilbara Minerals thorough test work, engineering, process flow design and equipment selection. Ongoing processing operations will now focus on increasing plant utilisation towards the targeted 85% of available time.

Product specifications for both fines and coarse spodumene concentrates have been further refined with improving overall stability in the processing plant operations. Typical product specifications being achieved currently are greater than 6% Li2O and typically <1.0% Fe2O3. Both coarse and fines circuits have demonstrated the capacity to deliver very high grade lithia production (in some cases >7% Li2O) and very low iron in concentrate (as low is 0.4% Fe2O3), following further optimisation through the commissioning, testing and ramp-up cycle.

The Company is on track to deliver a minimum of 5,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate ready for ship-loading in Port Hedland from approximately 20 September, with the focus now on growing production and stockpiling concentrate (both on site and in Port Hedland) for subsequent shipments to Pilbara Minerals’ premier customer group.

As part of ongoing product testing with one of its key off-take partners, General Lithium, Pilbara Mineral’s spodumene concentrate has been tested at their research laboratory in China (aligned to their conversion process) and readily produced Battery Grade lithium carbonate. The final product in the test (which is representative of the proportion of both coarse and fines spodumene production at the Pilgangoora project) has been qualified and passed the relevant industry standard.

General Lithium is a highly experienced, long-standing and reputable supplier to the lithium-ion battery industry with sales to some of the largest cathode materials and electrolyte manufacturers in China. With most of their sales in the ‘Battery Grade’ category or otherwise ‘ultra-high purity’ lithium carbonate supply, General Lithium are well placed to assess the performance of spodumene concentrates in the chemical conversion process. Further, General Lithium has the technology forthe direct conversion of spodumene into lithium hydroxide. Its new lithium hydroxide plant, with planned production of 16,000 tonnes (LCE basis), is currently being commissioned and once complete will be one of the most modern and fully automated plants in China.

Pilbara Minerals is also pleased to report that the first shipment of tantalite concentrate (of approximately 40 tonnes under the Mine Gate Offtake Agreement for primary concentrate sales) has been completed to Global Advanced Metals (GAM).

GAM is one of the world’s largest vertically integrated processors of tantalite concentrates to produce high purity tantalum powders and metals for the global capacitor manufacturers, and for various other applications.

Pilbara Minerals’ Managing Director and CEO, Ken Brinsden, said the Company was continuing to make excellent progress with the growth in quality production at the Pilgangoora Project.

“We have some fantastic talent at Pilbara Minerals and with the production results and product quality we are achieving, it is clearly on display. From the significant orebody knowledge underwriting the Ore Reserve in the ground, to mining, blending and now plant performance we have always been focused on quality outcomes.

“The strong results now being achieved also reflect the significant investments we made, including our decision to invest upfront in both a coarse and fines processing circuit, as well as in high-quality equipment selection. Together this will help ensure that the Pilgangoora Project becomes one of the lowest cost producers globally in the long term,” Brinsden said.

“Our methodical and systematic approach has been recognised by our premier customer group and tested through due-diligence and extensive product analysis.

“The cumulative result of all this hard work is that we are now delivering a quality product, both at site and through testwork in the conversion process – exactly in line with our expectations. This is a milestone month for Pilbara Minerals as we commence the first deliveries of both spodumene and tantalite to our long term offtake partners,” Brinsden added.

Source: Company Press Release