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NAL offtakes in the pipeline - Piedmont

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Photo by Reuters

1st February 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

     

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PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The joint venture (JV) partners of the North American Lithium (NAL) operation, in Quebec, are hoping to finalise offtake agreements over the project by the end of March this year.

Global lithium developer Piedmont Lithium president and CEO Keith Phillips told Mining Weekly Online that at 130 000 t/y, Piedmont would be the biggest buyer of NAL product, of which nearly half would be sold to third-party buyers.

Piedmont recently amended an offtake agreement with electric vehicle major Tesla to supply 125 000 t of spodumene concentrate from NAL over a three-year period, starting in the second half of 2023 and ending in 2025. The agreement includes an option to renew the offtake agreement for another three years.

Phillips said on Wednesday that Piedmont is in discussions with a number of other potential customers, while its JV partner Sayona Mining is also in discussions with offtake partners.

Spodumene concentrate production is expected to restart at NAL in the first quarter of 2023, with first commercial shipments expected to begin in the third quarter of 2023.

Sayona this week started ore crushing trials at NAL, feeding 400 t of spodumene ore into the crushing plant.

An earlier prefeasibility study (PFS) estimated that the 1.5-million-tonne-a-year NAL operation could deliver 4.4-million tonnes of spodumene concentrate over a mine life of 27 years.

Sayona is targeting an expansion of NAL’s future mine production capacity following the recent acquisition of 48 new claims spanning nearly 2 000 ha, located adjacent to the NAL operation.

Meanwhile, Piedmont is also focusing on bringing its Tennessee lithium hydroxide project into production, with Phillips saying the company’s aim is to complete the permitting process by May or June this year, and to complete the front-end engineering design (FEED) work, which will include the definitive feasibility study (DFS).

The company will also look to secure funding for the estimated $600-million capital investment required for the proposed lithium hydroxide plant, which could produce some 30 000 t/y of lithium hydroxide.

“It will be the biggest lithium hydroxide project ever built in the US. It will require 295 000 t/y of spodumene concentrate a year, and that material will come principally from our Ghana affiliate and maybe something from Quebec.

“First production from Tennessee will be around 24 months after we put a shovel in the ground, and we are hoping for construction as early as July or August. It really depends on the funding. We might decide to wait a little while to bring lower cost funding into the capital structure, but we haven’t made that decision yet.”

In Ghana, Piedmont is partnering with ASX-listed Atlantic Lithium at the Ewoyaa project, where a PFS last year demonstrated that the project could produce 255 000 t/y of 6% lithium spodumene concentrate over a 12-and-a-half-year mine life.

Capital expenditure for the project is currently estimated at $125-million.

Piedmont is working towards a 50% stake in Ewoyaa, spending $17-million on exploration funding and the completion of a DFS, and also committing to half of the capital cost to develop the project.

Atlantic on Wednesday increased the mineral resource estimate at Ewoyaa to 35.5-million tonnes, at 1.25% lithium oxide, with the measured and indicated resource now accounting for 79% of the total resource.

Atlantic told shareholders that the larger tonnage would provide the opportunity to evaluate an extended mine life and increased throughput at Ewoyaa to enhance the project economics.

“Our goal was to convert the inferred to indicated category, define the first one to two years of planned production to measured category and increase the overallresource scale. We have comfortably achieved all our goals, demonstrating the robust geological fundamentals of the project,” Atlantic interim CEO Lennard Kolff said in a statement.

First concentrate shipment from Ghana is tentatively planned for the third quarter of 2024.

Back in the US, Piedmont is also focusing on its North Carolina asset, which is expected to come online 12 months after the Tennessee lithium hydroxide plants.

“We are thinking about it [North Carolina] being 12 months after Tennessee, so we expect that permits and approvals will be in place well in advance of that. And then while we're building Tennessee, we'll be putting the funding together for Carolina,” Phillips said.

Piedmont is currently working with North Carolina regulators on the final approvals required for the lithium project.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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