Core Lithium managing director Stephen Biggins said that with approvals now in place, the mine-life was likely to double or even triple as the company updated the feasibility study by mid-2020.
Biggins said: “As a result of the excellent drill results that we received from our drilling 2019, which include a bonanza lithium intersection of over 100 metres grading at 1.7% lithia at BP33, we’re working on significant resource and reserve upgrades for the project using that data.
“Alongside that, we’re working on updating our feasibility study to include what we think is likely to be a much larger resource and reserve for the project which will significantly extend the mine life – and potentially double or even triple the mine life of the project and have an equally positive effect on the project economics.”
Dense media separation (DMS) test work on spodumene pegmatite from the BP33 deposit at Finniss has shown that a 6.0% lithium oxide concentrate can be produced at an overall lithium recovery of 71% at a coarse 6.3-millimetre crush size.
Improving project economics
Biggins said that the company was looking to improve the mine life of the project.
He said: “Our feasibility study last year highlighted that the project is one of Australia’s most capital-efficient projects, with only a capex required of A$75 million to build the project.
“This is because the project and the mine are only 25 kilometres away from the Port of Darwin and less than an hour’s drive from the suburbs and services of Darwin.
“We don’t need to build any camps or any airstrips or any haul roads so that capital need is not there.
“But most importantly we can produce high-quality, 6% lithium concentrate by simple gravity separation, (DMS).”
The 2019 DFS highlighted production of 175,000 tonnes per annum of high-quality lithium concentrate at a C1 opex of US$300/tonne and US$50 million capex through DMS processing as it avoids much higher capital, financing and operating costs associated with flotation processing.
Proximity to Asian markets
The project has arguably the best-supporting logistics chain to markets in Asia of any Australian lithium project.
It’s within 25 kilometres of port, power station, gas, rail and one hour by sealed road to workforce accommodated in Darwin and Australia’s nearest port to Asia.
Biggins said: “All of the Asia customers that we are talking to and have been to site easily recognise the logistic advantages that the project has, both from mine to port and then from Darwin Port, which is Australia’s closest port to Asia - from the proximity of port to our market and customers in Asia.”
Core believes that the high-quality, low-iron, coarse Finniss lithium concentrate will be preferred in a lithium battery and EV market focused on demand for exceptional quality materials supplied from ethical and sustainable sources.
Biggins said: “Customers recognise the excellent quality of material, the lithium concentrate that we’re producing - given its good grade, it’s very low in iron and contaminants, and it’s a coarse product with good handling properties.
“These are all things that our customers need.”
Core is aiming to complete offtake arrangements and have the Finniss Lithium Project construction-ready in 2020 ahead of sourcing debt and equity to achieve financial close.
Biggins said: “We’re in the fortunate position that many of the tasks ahead of us in the short and medium-term are not significantly affected by COVID-19.
“We’re working on activities on the commercial side, on feasibility and on finance that don’t require a significant level of travel.
“We’re particularly focused on the approvals process and have the ability to still function and achieve significant milestones on the project - even in this environment.”
The company is planning an updated feasibility study in quarter two of 2020 which will include a new mineral resource, ore reserve estimate as well as the new metallurgical test work results with the aim to increase mine life and substantially improved project economics.
Biggins said: “In the context of the receiving approval for the first lithium project outside of Western Australia, Core is well placed at the front of the line of new lithium projects globally to be ready to supply increasing global demand for lithium as the world recovers post-COVID-19.”