The Mount Cattlin lithium project is an operating spodumene mining project by Galaxy Resources in Western Australia. Image courtesy of Galaxy Resources.
The Mount Cattlin lithium mine re-commenced production in 2016. Image courtesy of Galaxy Resources.
The final spodumene concentrate is trucked to Esperance Port for export. Image courtesy of Tam.

Mount Cattlin is an open-pit spodumene mining operation located in Western Australia, Owned and operated by Galaxy Resources, the mine produces spodumene concentrate grading up to 6% lithium oxide (Li2O).

The mining license for the project was received from the Sons of Gwalia administrators in August 2009 and is valid till December 2030.

Although the Mount Cattlin lithium project commenced production in September 2010, it was put under care and maintenance in July 2012 until the recommencement of operations in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The Mount Cattlin project produced a total of 191,570 dry metric tonnes (dmt) of spodumene in 2019, and 75,315dmt of spodumene concentrate in 2020 until November.

Project location and geology

The Mount Cattlin lithium project is located approximately 2km north of Ravensthorpe in Western Australia. Encompasses the mining lease M74/244, the project area covers approximately 1,830ha.

The Mount Cattlin lithium deposit is located in the Ravensthrope Suite hosted by two primary rock formations. The Anabelle Volcanics host rock consisting of intermediate to mafic volcanic rocks of pyroclastic material and lavas lies to the west, while the eastern side of the project area is hosted by the Manyutup Tonalite.

The ore body occurs as a series of sub-horizontal dykes of pegmatites, hosted by volcanic and intrusive rocks as westward verging thrusts.

Mineralisation and reserves

The mineralisation at the Mount Cattlin lithium project occurs as flat sheets of spodumene and tantalite with thickness varying from 1m to 20m and vertical depths varying from 24m to 60m below surface. The orebody is open to the west with a down-dip to the north.

The lithium, tantalum, cesium (Li-Ta-Cs) bearing pegmatite body is generally enclosed within Archaean mafic volcanic, dolerites, or tonalite units that splits into two separate zones in the south-west.

The total proven and probable ore reserves at Mount Cattlin were estimated to be 8.2 million tonnes (Mt) grading 1.23% Li2O and 155ppm of tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5), as of December 2019.

The reserves estimate also included 3Mt of stockpile reserves grading 0.93 Li2O and 121ppm of Ta2O5.

Mining and ore processing

The Mount Cattlin lithium project employs conventional open-pit mining involving drill, blast, excavator, and truck operations.

The project utilises a one million tonne per annum (Mtpa) processing plant housing a four-stage crushing circuit to reduce the run-of-the-mine (ROM) ore to 6mm size.

The crushing circuit feeds an ore bin which in turn feeds a concentrator that houses a reflux classifier to remove mica from the crushed ore product, and a two-stage dense media separation (DMS) cyclones to produce the spodumene concentrate.

The tantalite concentrate is recovered from the DMS pre-screen undersize and undergoes gravity separation using spiral classifiers and wet tables. The tantalite concentrate is contract dressed, while the final spodumene concentrate product from the DMS is stacked on a pad and drained before being trucked to the Esperance Port for export.

Port facility

The Port of Esperance is located approximately 187km away from the Mount Cattlin lithium project site.

The loading operations at the port is facilitated by Qube’s rotabox container rotating frame system.

Prior to October 2016, the export operations were carried out from the Port of Bunbury of the Southern Ports Authority (SPA) which is located approximately 483km from the project site.

Off-take agreements

In July 2020, Galaxy Resources renewed its existing off-take agreement with Yahua International Investment and Development Company for three more years up to December 2025.

Yahua agreed to purchase an additional 30,000dmt of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate for the remainder of 2020, while the annual purchase post-2020 will be 120,000dmt.

In November 2020, Galaxy Resources also signed another three-year off-take agreement with Chengzin Lithium Group for a 60,000dmt of spodumene concentrate from the project.

Contractors involved

The mining contract for the project was awarded to Piacentini & Son (Piacentini) in November 2016 while the drill and blast component of the mining contract was awarded to Dynamic Drill & Blast, a sub-contractor for Piacentini.

Primero Group was engaged as the project manager for the final stages of construction, commissioning, and operations ramp-up of the project in 2016.