Is Australia going to become the New Saudi Arabia? Lithium Mining seems to point in this direction – Mick Raven
Top ten biggest lithium mines in the world
Western Australia hosts five of the world’s biggest lithium mines, whose combined reserves exceed 475.24 million tonnes (Mt). Mining Technology ranks the top ten biggest lithium mines in the world, based on proven and probable reserves.
1. Sonora Lithium Project – 243.8Mt
The Sonora lithium project, located in Sonora, Mexico, is the biggest lithium deposit being developed by Sonora Lithium (SLL), a joint venture (JV) of Bacanora Minerals (77.5%) and Ganfeng Lithium (22.5%).
The mine is estimated to hold proven and probable reserves of 243.8Mt, containing 4.5Mt of lithium carbonate-equivalent (LCE). The bankable feasibility study for the La Ventana concession, which will account for 88% of the mined ore from the project, estimates an initial mine life of 19 years.
Sonora will be an open-pit operation proposed to be developed in two stages with the first stage having a production capacity of 17,500 tonnes per annum (tpa) of lithium carbonate. Stage two will double the production capacity to 35,000tpa.
2. Thacker Pass Lithium Project – 179.4Mt
The Thacker Pass lithium project is located in Humboldt County, Nevada, US. It is 100% owned and operated by Lithium Americas.
The mine is estimated to contain proven and probable reserves of 179.4Mt containing 3.1Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). The mine is expected to have a life cycle of 46 years.
The pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the project was completed in August 2018, which proposed the two-phase mine development using open-pit methods. Phase one is expected to be commissioned in 2022 with a production capacity of 30,000tpa of battery-grade Li2CO3 while phase two will increase the capacity to 60,000tpa with a commissioning date of 2026.
3. Wodgina Lithium Project – 151.94Mt
The Wodgina lithium project is located 100km south-east of Port Hedland in Western Australia. The mine was earlier 100% owned by Mineral Resources. In August 2019, the company entered an agreement with Albemarle Corporation to form a 60:40 joint venture to develop the mine.
The open-pit mine is estimated to contain probable reserves of 151.94Mt grading 1.17% Li2O. Construction of the spodumene concentrate plant is currently ongoing with the first train being commissioned in June 2019 while the remaining three are expected to be commissioned in 2020. First ore from the mine is expected in the first quarter of 2020.
Wodgina is expected to produce 833,000 wet tonnes (750,000 dry tonnes) of 6% spodumene concentrate a year, upon commissioning.
4. Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum Project – 108.2Mt
The Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project is situated in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The mine is 100% owned and operated by Pilbara Minerals.
The proven and probable reserves of the mine are estimated to be 108.2Mt grading 1.25% Li2O and 120 parts per million (ppm) Ta2O5 and 1.17% Fe2O3. The definitive feasibility study (Dfs) of the project was completed in September 2016 and commercial production was achieved in April 2019.
The mine is expected to produce 320,000tpa of 6% spodumene concentrate through open-cut methods. Pilbara Minerals plans to undertake the second stage expansion of the mine to increase the production capacity to 5Mtpa, allowing it to produce 850,000tpa of 6% spodumene concentrate.
5. Earl Grey Lithium Project – 94.2Mt
The Earl Grey lithium project, also known as the Mt Holland lithium project, is located in the Forestania Greenstone Belt in Mt Holland, Western Australia. It is owned by Kidman Resources (50%) and Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM, 50%) under a JV named Covalent Lithium.
The mine is estimated to contain proven and probable reserves of 94.5Mt grading 1.5% Li2O. The PFS for the project was completed in December 2018 while the DFS is currently underway.
The mine is expected to produce 411,233t of spodumene concentrate a year over its 47-year mine life, upon commissioning in 2020.
6. Greenbushes Lithium Project – 86.4Mt
The Greenbushes lithium project is located in Greenbushes, Western Australia. It is owned by Chinese mining company Tianqi Lithium and operated by Talison Lithium, which is 51% owned by Tianqi Lithium.
The mine is estimated to contain proven and probable reserves of 86.4Mt grading 2.35% Li2O. It is installed with two processing plants, which produce technical and chemical-grade lithium concentrates.
A second chemical-grade lithium processing plant is scheduled to be commissioned in 2019, which will double the mine’s processing capacity to 1.3Mtpa of lithium concentrates. Construction of a third processing plant is to start in the third quarter of 2019.
7. Whabouchi Lithium Project – 36.6Mt
The Whabouchi lithium project is located in the James Bay area in central Quebec, Canada. It is 100% owned and operated by Nemaska Lithium, a Canadian mining company.
The mine is estimated to contain proven and probable reserves of 36.6Mt grading 1.3% Li2O. It is planned to be developed using open-pit and underground mining methods over its 33- year mine life. Underground mining will be undertaken in year 26 upon depletion of the open-pit reserves.
Whabouchi is expected to produce 205,000tpa of concentrate. Construction is expected to begin in November 2019, upon securing financing.
8. Altura Mining’s Pilgangoora Lithium Mine – 34.2Mt
Altura Mining’s 100%-owned Pilgangoora lithium mine is located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The mine is estimated to contain 34.2Mt of proven and probable reserves grading 1.04% Li2O. The mine is expected to have a life of 13 years.
The open-pit operation is being developed in two stages. The first stage was commissioned in early-2019 and is expected to produce 220,000tpa of lithium spodumene concentrate.
Altura has completed a DFS for stage two expansion of the mine, which will increase the annual production capacity to 440,000tpa. Stage two is expected to be undertaken upon securing long-term offtake agreements and necessary funding, following which first production is expected within 18 months.
9. Goulamina Lithium Project – 31.2Mt
The Goulamina lithium project is 100% owned and operated by Mali Lithium, a mining company based in Australia. It is located in the Bougouni region of southern Mali and planned to be developed using open-cut methods.
The mine is estimated to contain probable reserves of 31.2Mt grading 1.56% Li2O and indicated and inferred resources of 103Mt grading 1.34% Li2O. The estimated operating life of the mine is 16 years while the production capacity is 362,000tpa of concentrate.
Mali Lithium has completed the pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the project and is currently carrying out the DFS. The final investment decision on the project is expected to be taken in the second half of 2020.
10. Arcadia Lithium Project – 26.9Mt
The Arcadia lithium project is open-pit mine located 38km from Harare, Zimbabwe. It is owned and operated by Prospect Resources, an Australian mining company.
The mine is estimated to hold proven and probable reserves of 29.8Mt grading 1.31% Li2O. It is expected to have a mine life of 12 years with an average production of 212,000tpa of 6% spodumene concentrates, 216,000tpa of petalite concentrate and 188,000lb of tantalum a year.
The DFS for the project was completed in November 2018. The mine is currently under construction and expected to be commissioned in the second half of 2020.
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