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Keliber lithium hydroxide project, Finland – update

Image of drill core from the Keliber lithium project

Photo by Sibanye-Stillwater

17th May 2024

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Name of the Project
Keliber lithium hydroxide project.

Location
Central Ostrobothnia, Finland.

Project Owner/s
Sibanye-Stillwater owns about 84.96% of the Keliber project, while Finnish Minerals Group holds 13.90% and other remaining minority shareholders 1.14%.

Project Description
The Keliber project had an attributable (84.96%) mineral resource of 14.5-milllion tonnes grading at 1% lithium oxide (Li2O) as at December 31, 2022, containing 366 100 t of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE); and mineral reserves of 8.2-million tonnes grading at 1% Li2O, containing 193 600 t of LCE. 

The project entails the development of four opencast and three highly mechanised underground, mining operations – Syväjärvi and Rapasaari, which have a combined mine life of 16 years, will be developed first. Development of the Emmes, Outovesi, and Länttä operations will follow towards the end of the project life. These operations are situated across Kaustinen, Kokkola and Kronoby.

Ore mined will be fed to the Päiväneva concentrator, which will be situated close to the Rapasaari mine. The concentrator will have an estimated capacity of 200 000 t/y of spodumene concentrate. Concentrate produced at the Päiväneva concentrator is planned to be trucked about 66 km to the Kokkola refinery, at the Kokkola Industrial Park, which is forecast to produce about 15 000 t/y of battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate.

Potential Job Creation
By the end of the fourth quarter of 2023 the employee headcount had reached 70 people.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
The 2019 updated definitive feasibility study (DFS) has estimated a pretax net present value, at an 8% discount rate, of €510-million, compared with the €295-million estimated in the 2018 DFS.

The pretax internal rate of return has also increased from 24% in the 2018 DFS to 28% in the 2019 updated DFS.

The payback period for the project has decreased from 5.5 years to 3.7 years.

Capital Expenditure
The project is estimated at €656-million (2023 real terms), previously €588-million (2022 real terms), of which the refinery’s capital cost is €418-million, on the back of amended water treatment technology to ensure compliance with more stringent effluent water quality conditions, and to increase lithium refinery recovery.

Capital expenditure (capex) for 2023 was €124-million versus revised guidance of €130-million. Capex in the second half of 2023 was €59-million. Total expenditure to date is €144-million.

Planned Start/End Date
Construction of the Keliber project started in the first quarter of 2023 and concentrator earth works in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Latest Developments
Construction of the Keliber lithium refinery has progressed according to schedule, Sibanye reports in its operating update for the quarter ended March 31, 2024.

The main building steel frame is complete, and a topping out ceremony was held on January 17, 2024. The effluent treatment plant (ETP) received its building permit, and subsequently earthworks and concrete works have started. Supporting facilities are somewhat behind schedule but without any impact on the overall plant commissioning schedule.

The second phase of the Keliber lithium project, comprising the construction of the concentrator in Päiväneva and the development of the Syväjärvi openpit mine, started in late 2023. A court ruling on three appeals made with regard to the Rapasaari-Päiväneva environmental permit (covering the concentrator and the Rapasaari mine) was received on  February 23, 2024. The environmental permit is now legally valid as the court upheld the permit but simultaneously referred certain permit conditions back to the permitting authority for further review.

Meanwhile, negotiations with a syndicate of financial institutions for debt financing of the remaining Keliber project capital are advancing. Three sources of external third-party spodumene supply to commission the Keliber lithium refinery have been identified and provide feed before processing of own ore. Samples from each source of supply were received for testing with final qualification to be confirmed in the second quarter of 2024.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
Metso Outotec (sustainable soda pressure leaching technology).

Contact Details for Project Information
Keliber Oy, tel +358 10 567 0600 or email info@keliber.fi.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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