Piedmont lays off 27% of staff as lithium prices fall sharply

6th February 2024 By: Mariaan Webb - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

Piedmont lays off 27% of staff as lithium prices fall sharply

US-based Piedmont Lithium, which has a joint venture (JV) operation in Canada and a lithium project in Ghana, has laid off 27% of its work force in a bid to curb operating expenses amid a sharp downturn in the lithium market.

“These cost reductions, while difficult, are necessary to position the company for the long-term. Lithium prices have fallen sharply, and the market consensus is currently negative,” says CEO Keith Phillips.

Piedmont and JV partner Sayona Mining are conducting a strategic review of North American Lithium (NAL), in Quebec, to improve productivity and operating costs, positioning the mine to continue to operate throughout the market cycle.

“NAL is North America’s only operating spodumene mine and, as such, is quite strategic to the long-term customers we serve. As we complete our operational review with our partners at Sayona, our goal is to optimise production rates and operating costs and maintain leverage for the recovery in lithium prices that we anticipate based upon market dynamics and historic pricing trends,” says Phillips.  

NAL produced 34 247 dry metric tons (dmt) of spodumene concentrate in the fourth quarter, at an average grade of 5.5% lithium oxide, representing a 9% increase in production from the prior quarter.

Fourth-quarter shipments have been delayed, owing to inclement weather and port congestion, with 14 248 dmt of spodumene concentrate shipped during the quarter and 13 104 dmt being shipped in mid-January.

At Ewoyaa, in Ghana, Piedmont and JV partner Atlantic Lithium plan to start construction next year, following receipt of the required permits and approvals.

Piedmont expects Ewoyaa funding to be minimal this year and is evaluating a range of options to fund its share of project capital in 2025 and beyond. Piedmont says it plans to submit a formal application for the Ewoyaa project debt financing later this quarter to the US Internaitonal Development Finance Corporation.

Piedmont is also still exploring possible funding related to its 50% offtake interest in the project. Atlantic recently announced completion of Stage 1 of a competitive offtake partnering process for the 50% of the Ewoyaa material controlled by the JV.

“Based on technical studies, Ewoyaa is expected to be a large operation offering the potential of a high return on invested capital given its relatively low capex and opex profile. We expect 2024 project spending to be minimal with a focus on advancing the project through the environmental permitting and approvals processes to prepare for an ultimate investment decision in 2025,” comments Phillips.