Pilbara Minerals Ltd (ASX:PLS) has increase proved and probable ore reserves by 35% at its wholly-owned Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum Project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. Pilgangoora’s reserve is now 108.2 million tonnes grading 1.25% spodumene, 120ppm tantalum pentoxide and 1.17% iron oxide.
The West Perth-based emerging lithium and tantalum producer is also on track to ship out its first spodumene concentrate amid a ramp-up at the flagship project.
In the first of two announcements published today, the company reported this morning it had made “further strong progress” with its production ramp-up.
In the second announcement, published at late lunchtime, the company said its new ore reserve of 2.86 million tonnes of spodumene for the company was based on a revised JORC mineral resource estimate of 226.0 million tonnes grading 1.27% spodumene, 116ppm tantalum and 0.60% iron.
The reserve is now 1.36 million tonnes of contained spodumene and 28.5 million pounds of tantalum, extending the mine life to about 23 years based on the proposed stage 2, 5-million-tonnes-per-annum operation.
Pilbara Minerals managing director Ken Brinsden said: “The continued growth in ore reserves reflected the quality and scale of the Pilgangoora project and truly sets the scene for our stage 2, 5-million-tonnes-per-annum expansion”.
“Given the rapid escalation in customer demand, the robust outlook for the lithium market and continued increases in the resource and ore reserve, we have every reason to believe that Pilgangoora’s production can continue to grow over time, subject of course to completing the appropriate studies.”
A 3D overlay of plans for Stage 2 at Pilgangoora in WA's Pilbara region.
Product ready to ship out in about three days
The company reported more than 5,000 tonnes of greater than 6% lithia and less than 1.4% iron was ready for ship-loading from Port Hedland from about Thursday onwards.
Pilbara Minerals reported: “Plant run-rates have continued to increase and have been achieving design capacity input tonnes (of approximately 270 tonnes per hour) over a 24-hour period, through the combined coarse and fines concentrate production circuits.”
Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora stage 1 concentrator is achieving combined tonnages of more than 500 tonnes a day, which fits the planned throughput levels for this point of the ramp-up.
Brinsden highlighted the company’s progress in growing “quality production” at the project.
He said: “The strong results now being achieved also reflect the significant investments we made, including our decision to invest upfront in both a coarse and fines processing circuit, as well as in high-quality equipment selection.
“Together this will help ensure that the Pilgangoora project becomes one of the lowest cost producers globally in the long term.
“This is a milestone month for Pilbara Minerals as we commence the first deliveries of both spodumene and tantalite to our long-term offtake partners.”
Revisions to net present value and other ore reserve estimates were to be based on a flat forward commodity price of US$633 a tonne for battery-grade spodumene concentrate and a US$89 tantalum sales price, with a life-of-mine strip ratio of 5.