The North American lithium (NAL) project is a brownfield open pit mine in the Québec province, Canada. It is owned by Sayona Québec (75%), a subsidiary of Sayona Mining, and Piedmont Lithium (25%).
A pre-feasibility study (PFS) to resume spodumene concentrate operations at NAL was released in May 2022.
With an estimated mine life of 27 years, the lithium project is expected to produce approximately 168,000 tonnes (t) per annum of 6% spodumene concentrate.
The project secured the last remaining permit to restart mining operations in December 2022. It is set to produce its concentrate in the first quarter of 2023.
Sayona plans to combine the ore production from NAL with its Authier Lithium Project to improve performance.
Location and site details
The North American lithium project is located in the La Corne township in the Abitibi- Témiscamingue region, Quebec province, Canada.
The project site lies 30km away from the Authier lithium project in the La Motte municipality and approximately 550km from Montreal city, serviced by road, rail and air.
The property consists of 20 contiguous groups of mineral titles that include 19 claims and one mining lease for a total area of 699.9ha.
Geology and mineralisation
The geology of the lithium deposit is an Archean Preissac-Lacorne batholith placed in the Southern Volcanic Zone of the Abitibi Greenstone Belt. The batholith is a composite body consisting of metaluminous gabbro, diorite, monzonite and granodiorite and four peraluminous monzogranitic plutons along with associated pegmatites and quartz veins.
It occurs in the rock formations that are split between granodiorite of the La Corne batholith, volcanics, and some biotite schists along with pegmatite dykes mainly intruding the granodiorite and volcanics.
The mineralised pegmatite dykes and spodumene are associated with the Lamotte and Lacorne plutons, occurs as lenticular bodies and tabular dykes.
The mineralisation is spodumene hosted within the unzone pegmatite dykes and occurs as log-shaped crystals fine-grained to half inches separated by aplite and feldspar-rich stringers.
Estimated reserves and resources
The North American lithium project is estimated to hold approximately 29.2 million tonnes (Mt) of proven and probable ore reserves grading 0.96% lithium oxide (LiO2) containing 280.3 kilo tonnes (kt) of LiO2.
The measured, indicated and inferred mineral resources are estimated at 101.9Mt grading 1.06% LiO2.
Mining and ore processing
The North American lithium project employs a conventional bulk mining method utilising hydraulic excavators, dump trucks, and drilling and blasting operations.
The ore is trucked from the blasted faces to the run-of-mine (ROM) stockpile through a front-end loader (FEL) and fed to the primary crusher.
The crushing circuit consists of primary, secondary and tertiary crushing combined with primary and secondary ore sorting for the removal of rock dilution prior to the milling operation.
The grinding circuit features a rod mill and a ball mill in a closed circuit with sizing screens. The product from the mill is deslimed and fed into a magnetic separation circuit for the rejection of iron-bearing minerals.
The non-magnetic stream consists of rougher, scavenger cells and three stages of cleaning, and is conditioned prior to spodumene floatation.
Existing and new infrastructure facilities
The existing infrastructure facilities at the North American lithium project comprise an open pit, processing plant, ROM ore pad, conventional tailings pond, workshop, fuel, lube and oil storage facility and administrative building.
The new infrastructure facilities at the site will include an expanded open-pit, upgraded processing plant with an additional ore sorter, crushed ore dome, and crushing circuit upgrade.
Also, it will consist of additional tailings management including a dry-stacked tailing area and tailings filter plant and an additional waste stockpile area.
BBA prepared the mineral resource estimate along with the delivery of engineering and project management services.
North American lithium project background
The North American lithium project reached commercial production in early 2018, shipping spodumene concentrates to China’s refineries for processing into lithium carbonate.
Later, in 2019, the production at the project was suspended by NAL due to a fall in the prices of lithium products and spodumene concentrate.
NAL was acquired by Sayona Québec and Piedmont Lithium through a share purchase agreement executed in August 2021.