KALGOORLIE (miningweekly.com) – Lithium developer Liontown Resources is working to bring its Kathleen Valley operation, in Western Australia, into production a year ahead of schedule.
The 2020 scoping study estimated that the project would be in production by the first quarter of 2025, however, Liontown MD and CEO Tony Ottaviano told delegates at the Diggers & Dealers conference, that the company was now hoping to produce first ore by the second quarter of 2024.
“We have accelerated the timeline by one year and will be putting orders in for long-lead items in order to meet that target. It is clear that a supply deficit is coming sooner and sooner, so we are looking to optimise on our timelines,” Ottaviano said.
An updated and optimised definitive feasibility (DFS) study on Kathleen Valley is due in the fourth quarter of this year, with a final investment decision due by the second quarter of next year.
The DFS follows on from a prefeasibility study (PFS) completed in the fourth quarter of last year, into establishing a two-million-tonne-a-year mining operation to produce some 350 000 t/y of spodumene concentrate over a mine life of 40 years, and a downstream scoping study to produce either lithium hydroxide or lithium sulphate on-site.
The PFS had estimated that the mining project would require a capital investment of A$325-million, and would generate a post-tax net present value of A$1.12-billion and an internal rate of return of 37%, with life-of-mine free cash flows of A$4.8-billion.
For its part, the scoping study demonstrated the financial upside to an integrated mining, processing and refining operation to produce lithium hydroxide monohydrate (LHM), or lithium sulphate monohydrate (LSM).
The downstream scoping study estimated that an integrated LHM operation would require a total capital spend of A$1.1-billion, while an integrated LSM operation would require a capital spend of A$0.9-billion.
At steady state production, both the LHM and the LSM projects would produce at a rate of 430 000 t/y of tantalum, with the LHM refinery to have a design production rate of 58 000 t/y, while the LSM refinery would have a production rate of 88 000 t/y.
Ottaviano said on Wednesday that Liontown would be looking for a strategic partner to help in the development and operation of the downstream processing facility.
“There are three refineries being commissioned and built here in Western Australia, and we are looking at what we can learn from those,” Ottaviano said.