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Goulamina lithium project, Mali – update

Image of periodic table symbol for lithium

29th March 2024

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Name of the Project
Goulamina lithium project.

Location
Southern Mali, about 50 km west of Bougouni.

Project Owner/s
Mali Lithium BV (MLBV), a joint venture holding company comprising Leo Lithium and GFL International.

Project Description
The project is one of the world’s biggest lithium developments.

Stage 1 spodumene concentrate production is estimated at 506 000 t/y, increasing to a peak of 880 000 t/y in Stage 2. The DFS envisages a standard openpit mining operation.

The flowsheet will comprise:

  • three-stage crushing to a P80 of 6.2 mm, with a fine-ore bin and overflow dead stockpile;
  • closed-circuit ball milling and screening to an estimated P80 of 180 µm, based on a closing screen P100 of 212 µm;
  • two-stage magnetic separation;
  • three-stage flotation (roughing, cleaning and recleaning);
  • concentrate dewatering, filtration and storage;
  • separate flotation and process tailings thickening, with common tailings pumped to a tailings storage facility;
  • reagent mixing and distribution;
  • separate flotation and process water circuits; and
  • air services.

The DFS update proposes the construction of a 2.3-million-tonne-a-year throughput plant, incorporating in the design the infrastructure and equipment for the construction of a Stage 2 expansion to increase plant throughput to four-million tonnes a year.

The project is expected to have a minimum mine life of 23 years, producing 15.6-million tonnes of spodumene concentrate over that period.

Potential Job Creation
Not stated.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
The project has a pretax net present value, at an 8% discount rate, of $4-billion and an internal rate of return (real) of 97.8%.

Capital Expenditure
Leo Lithium released a midterm budget update in April 2023, forecasting revised capital costs to complete the project of $318-million – comprising $285-million for construction and $33-million – for operational readiness activities. As of December 31, 2023, about $241-million of the forecast $285-million construction total had been committed to suppliers and service providers. This guidance remains in place with the exception of unplanned import customs duties and fees.

Planned Start/End Date
Firefinch expects to complete construction in early 2024 and commissioning in about mid-2024, with full production expected in 2025.

Latest Developments
Leo Lithium has reported that progress at Goulamina remains on schedule and construction has reached about 80% completion. Goulamina is on track to deliver its first spodumene early in the third quarter of the 2024 financial year.

Construction activities are advancing. The final concrete is expected to be poured at the plant in April. Structural, mechanical and piping installation has started on most of the work fronts, and the electrical and instrumentation teams have started work, with significant progress on cable installation and terminations. Some areas of the dry plant have progressed to final completion activities and precommissioning.

The final deliveries of equipment and materials are in transit to site. The primary critical construction paths are the electrical installation and power plant construction packages, as well as the associated government permit to operate the power plant. If the permit is not granted in time, commissioning is planned for temporary power; however, the permit is required for full-scale operations to proceed. The Malian authorities have indicated that they have restarted assessing the application for the power self-generation permit.

Leo Lithium and GFL continue to engage with the Mali government to resolve current issues pertaining to the Goulamina lithium project.

Leo Lithium is unable to provide a definitive timeline for that engagement. This follows an announcement in January that ongoing  discussions with the Mali government regarding correspondence received have been progressing towards a potential negotiated settlement, which, if reached, would likely require a settlement payment being made to the Mali government.

In September 2023, Leo Lithium announced that government started imposing customs duties and fees on imported equipment and supplies, which the project should have been exempt from under the project’s establishment agreement.

Should these fees and duties be continued to first production, it is forecast to cost $45-million to $50-million, which is in addition to the $285-million construction cost estimate. As of early March 2024, $23-million in unplanned fees and duties had been paid.

Leo Lithium’s previously announced agreement to sell an additional 5% of MLBV to Ganfeng for $65-million, conditional on a settlement with the Mali government, remains binding.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
Lycopodium (updated DFS, and engineering, procurement and associated project management services contract); and Corica Mining Services (mining contractor).

Contact Details for Project Information
Leo Lithium, tel +61 8 6314 4500 or email info@leolithium.com.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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