The Wolfsberg Lithium Project is located in Carinthia, around 270km south of Vienna, Austria. The deposit was first discovered by an Austrian state-owned company Minerex in 1981.
After passing through a number of entities, the ownership of the mine is now with European Lithium Limited-subsidiary European Lithium AT (Investments) Limited.
In October 2022, European Lithium AT (Investments) Limited signed a definitive merger agreement with publicly traded special purpose acquisition company Sizzle Acquisition Corp.
The combination will form a lithium mining company called Critical Metals Corp, which will own the Wolfsberg Lithium Project.
The pre-feasibility study (PFS) of the project was completed in Q2 2018.
A definitive feasibility study (DFS) is expected to be completed before the end of 2022, subject to the availability of funding and Covid-19 restrictions.
According to the PFS, the mine is expected to produce 10,129 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per annum in an accelerated case. The material will be enough to power around 200,000 electric vehicles (EVs) per year amid rising demand for lithium-ion batteries.
European Lithium aims to achieve a mining rate of 800,000 tonnes per annum with a mine life of more than ten years.
Lithium hydroxide production at the project is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2025, subject to multiple conditions.
Location and property description
The Wolfsberg Lithium Project and concentrator site is located 20km east of Wolfsberg, an industrial town in Austria. The hydrometallurgical plant is located close to the A2 motorway and the natural gas transmission pipeline that follows the motorway.
The project will have access to road and rail infrastructure, which will facilitate the delivery of lithium hydroxide to the lithium battery plants in Northern Europe.
Overall, the project includes 22 original and 32 overlapping exploration licences and a mining licence over 11 mining areas issued by the Austrian mining authority.
Exploration licences, which cover a total non-overlapping area of 1,133 hectares, are in place until 31 December 2024.
Drilling work, geology and mineralisation
The previous owners of the mine carried out significant exploration and development work on the project. This includes 17,000m of drilling / 1,400m of decline, drives and crosscuts.
The project area features a sequence of generally quartzitic, locally kyanitebearing mica schists and eclogitic amphibolites. Minerex’s exploration work focused on the northern limb of this anticline called Zone 1.
At Zone 1, a deep hole drilling programme of four holes totalling 1,750m confirmed the extension of the lithium bearing pegmatite veins to depth.
European Lithium has also conducted drilling in Zone 2, which is the southern limb of the anticline. A drilling campaign in 2018 of five holes showed numerous pegmatite intersections.
After PFS in 2018, the company announced Wolfsberg resources of 10.98 million tonnes at 1.00% lithium oxide (Li2O). This includes 6.3 million tonnes of measured and indicated resources averaging at 1.17% Li2O and 4.68 million tonnes of inferred resources at 0.78% Li2O.
In October 2022, European Lithium reported total measured, indicated and inferred mineral resources at 12.88 million tonnes at 1.00% Li2O.
The PFS envisaged a base case of Wolfsberg Lithium Project development which will be capable of producing an average of about 620,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) Run of Mine (RoM) from stoping and development over 12 years.
Long hole open stoping was determined as the preferred mining method for the project.
Concentrator feed will average around 400,000tpa after ore sorters separate the waste. Subsequently, the concentrator will produce around 55.4 kilo tonnes per annum (ktpa) spodumene concentrate with feldspar and quartz as by-products.
The hydrometallurgy plant will convert lithium in the spodumene concentrate to an average of 8,400 tpa lithium hydroxide monohydrate.
During the development of the plan, it was concluded that the use of additional equipment and improved scheduling can increase mining rate to 720,000tpa.
The accelerated case will enable mining and processing of measured and indicated resources of the Base case in ten years.
The mine design consultant in PFS indicated that the mining rate can further improve to 800,000tpa, supported by additional Indicated resources.
Water demand for the project is planned to be covered through mountain water, other natural inflows and recycling.
The project’s power requirement of 13MW. Local utility Kelag will supply the power through an underground cable from the Wolfsberg substation. The hydrometallurgical plant will need 11.5MW of power, which will procured from nearby power lines.
The Mineral Corporation was responsible for determining the scope of work for the definitive feasibility study (DFS).
DRA Global led the pre-feasibility study of the lithium project and was involved with process and infrastructure engineering, capital and operating cost estimates for process and infrastructure, construction planning and financial modelling.
SRK Consulting supported mining engineering and mine capital and operating cost estimates. It was also associated with geotechnical engineering, undertaken an initial hydrogeology study hydrogeology and determined the ore reserves.
Umweltbüro conducted environmental study, while Paterson & Cooke was associated with tailings design with capital and operating cost estimate work.
Dorfner Anzaplan, Benchmark Minerals Intelligence, Orykton Consulting and Al Maynard & Associates were also associated with PFS.