Lithium Australia Aims For Sustainability In Energy Metals

THE INSIDE STORY: Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT), one of the first mining companies to enter the burgeoning lithium space, aims to “close the loop on the energy metal cycle” and create a sustainable lithium future.

While LIT continues to hone its SiLeach® metallurgical technology, its pending acquisition of the Very Small Particle Company (VSPC) will see it move into cathode production as well.

That move is an extension of LIT’s previously announced plans to form a viable battery recycling business.

LIT’s primary focus is the creation of a seamless and sustainable business chain involving several stages: sourcing lithium mineral resources (including mining ‘waste’) as feedstock; processing that feedstock via its SiLeach technology to produce high-quality lithium chemicals and value-adding by-products; further processing the lithium chemicals to create advanced lithium ion (Li-ion) battery cathode materials, and recycling energy metals from spent Li-ion batteries to re-use in new battery production.

The mainstay of this business chain is LIT’s disruptive SiLeach process, designed to efficiently digest and recover metal values from any silicate mineral, without the need for high-temperature, energy-intensive and environmentally adverse roasting.

What drove LIT’s development of SiLeach was its perception that the sustainability of lithium production could be improved by processing materials neglected by others as a feed source for lithium chemicals.

SiLeach is a hydrometallurgical process characterised by low energy consumption and high metal recoveries, with the benefit of extensive by-product credits.

Importantly, it can be applied across a wide range of lithium feedstock, including spodumene, but also lithium micas, which are at present an under-utilised resource.

“We can access lithium from sources that until now were considered unviable, due to a lack of appropriate processing routes – it means we can effectively create value from waste material that would otherwise end up in tailings dams,” Lithium Australia business development manager Brett Fowler told The Resources Roadhouse.

Earlier this year, LIT worked with The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate feed from its SiLeach pilot plant.

Ore from the Lepidolite Hill lithium deposit in Western Australia was used as feedstock.

Subsequently, further engineering design studies and financial modelling for the construction of a proposed large-scale pilot plant (LSPP) have been completed.

“Our next goal is the construction of that plant,” said Fowler.

“We’ve completed a pre-feasibility study, which showed a positive outcome, and are now completing optimisation studies.

“Lithium Australia will make an investment decision on whether to proceed at the end of 2017 or very early in 2018.

“Our large-scale pilot plant is expected to produce 2,500 tonnes of lithium carbonate per annum, approximately one-tenth of what would be produced by a full-scale production plant.”

LIT’s proposed LSPP will be based on studies that indicate it can be cash-positive, based on the production of lithium carbonate only and before by-product credits. With economies of scale, and with the inclusion of valuable by-products, a full-scale plant promises a low-cost production route.

The studies concluded that:

• recovery of high-purity lithium carbonate, such as that produced by the ANSTO-operated pilot plant and meeting offtake specification, can be achieved;

• hydrometallurgical plant operating costs would be around US$5,600 to US$6,400 per tonne of lithium carbonate produced, without taking into account potential by-product credits;

• by-product credits may significantly reduce operating costs;

• there is potential for further significant improvements to both capital and operating costs as a result of:

o improved water management;

o optimisation of reagent mix and usage;

o better control of neutralisation to minimise lithium losses;

o optimising the trade-off between residence time and recovery, and

o economies of scale transitioning from pilot-plant testing to commercial operations.

LIT’s preferred supply model is sourcing lithium mica from the waste streams of already operating mines or historical dumps and tailings; however, it is also pursuing exploration activity to secure alternative supplies, both within Australia and globally.

The company has identified sourcing of the feed material as a high priority and a critical requirement for committing to the construction of the LSPP.

In the meantime, further optimisation studies aim to improve both capital and operating costs.

“We hope to make a decision, as a company, to go ahead with that construction by early 2018 – spending in the order of $40 million to do so,” Fowler said.

“We’ve been looking at potential sites for the plant in Asia, including Malaysia; however, a West Australian-based facility is a strong option too.”

LIT is currently seeking expressions of interest regarding product offtake agreements for the LSPP.

“There’s already a significant amount of international interest in LIT’s approach and the large-scale pilot plant,” Fowler continued.

“Development activities at the moment include the structuring of finance options and the development of off-take marketing strategies; both have a completion objective of early next year.

“We think interest will grow once the large-scale pilot plant shifts into gear and we successfully demonstrate our SiLeach® approach. It will lead the way to a full-scale production plant.”

Meanwhile, LIT has finalised its due diligence for the acquisition of advanced cathode-material producer VSPC.

VSPC owns a proprietary process for the production of advanced, high-quality lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery cathode nano-powder material, as well as a pilot plant with advanced laboratory and large-scale testing facilities.

The VSPC technology, which can be adapted to generate a wide range of cathode nano-powder materials, is a simple and cost-effective method of producing such materials in an environment of superior quality control.

“Independent testing by a German laboratory of product generated from the VSPC’s facility showed it to be better than the standards required,” Fowler explained.

“It’s an advanced technology that was invented in Australia a few years ago, but for one reason or another things didn’t go ahead as planned.

“LIT recognised the opportunity and saw the business as a natural fit with our sustainability and value-adding strategies – we’re aiming to lead in Australia’s nascent clean-tech manufacturing sector.”

VSPC’s process is compatible with solutions produced during the processing of hard-rock minerals to recover lithium carbonate, or lithium hydroxide. It means that lithium carbonate produced by virtue of LIT’s SiLeach technology can be used as feedstock for VSPC’s cathode production.

The advantage for LIT lies in the fact that direct production of cathode materials from SiLeach-produced solutions potentially removes two process steps usually inherent in the manufacture of cathode materials.

As a result, LIT creates a revolutionary flowsheet that capitalises on the value-add of shortening the route from lithium chemicals to cathode materials.

As governments worldwide – among them China, Britain, France, Germany, Norway and The Netherlands – legislate to transition from internal combustion engines to all-electric vehicles (EVs), the emerging market for EVs could create an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

EVs require reliable, high-performance batteries, production of which will rely on greater, and more sustainable, supplies of lithium and other energy metals. It’s a situation LIT is monitoring closely and taking very seriously indeed.

Lithium Australia NL (ASX: LIT)
… the short story

Level 1,
675 Murray Street,
West Perth WA 6005

Ph: +61 8 6145 0288


Adrian Griffin, George Bauk, Bryan Dixon

Peel Mining Raises $6m To Advance Southern Nights

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Peel Mining (ASX: announced a placement of 15 million fully paid ordinary shares at an issue price of 40 cents each, raising $6 million.

Peel Mining announced the placement saying it was priced at an 11.1 per cent discount to the company’s last traded price of 45 cents.

The company said the placement had been oversubscribed, which it deemed to reflect support and attention it has been receiving from major shareholders and new sophisticated and institutional investors.

The company will use the proceeds from the placement for exploration activities at its 100 per cent-owned Wagga Tank project, south of Cobar in New South Wales, along with funding pre-development activities at the 50 per cent-owned Mallee Bull polymetallic project, also in the Cobar Basin.

The placement is timely given the further evaluation of the exceptionally high-grade zinc-lead-silver massive sulphide mineralisation recently identified at the Southern Nights prospect at Wagga Tank has become a priority for Peel.

Following completion of the placement, the company will embark on a drilling program of up to 30,000 metres on the tenements.

“We are extremely pleased with the level of interest in the placement from both existing shareholders and new investors as it has ensured we have the funding to properly test Southern Nights and the broader Wagga Tank area,” Peel Mining managing director Rob Tyson said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange

“Early indications are that the project has the potential to host a major mineralised system.”



Corazon Mining Receives Cobalt Ridge Drill Results

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Corazon Mining (ASX: CZN) released new assay results from the current phase of drilling underway at the Cobalt Ridge deposit within the company’s Mt Gilmore project in New South Wales.

Results have now been returned for 12 of the 15 holes completed to date, which the company said have continued to deliver highly encouraging results, with 10 holes intersecting notable mineralisation.

Source: Company announcement

Corazon Mining explained results are currently pending for an additional three completed holes which targeted the high- grade Cobalt Ridge Main Lode.

The company anticipates these results to be ready soon, and drilling remains ongoing.

“The current phase of exploration at Mt Gilmore has focused on the Cobalt Ridge prospect area and includes drilling and surface sampling,” Corazon Mining said in its ASX announcement.

“Drilling for the program at Cobalt Ridge has to date focused on stepping out and testing new areas of potential mineralisation.

“Results have been extremely encouraging with multiple of sulphidic lodes identified in addition to the Main Cobalt Ridge Lode.

“Drilling at the Main Lode has intersected strong mineralisation in line with Corazon’s previous drilling results, and the maiden holes into the Flintoff’s target, has supported the presence of cobalt-copper-gold sulphide mineralisation.

“The results to date provide encouragement for the potential extension of the project’s target area.”



Sayona Mining Signs Chinese Mou

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Sayona Mining (ASX: SYA) has signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with leading China based battery manufacturer, Huan Changyuan Lico Co Ltd.

Changyuan, a subsidiary of the Fortune 500 Company, China Minmetals Group, is a battery research, development, and production company.

According to Sayona Mining Changyuan produced more than 16,000 tonnes of battery cathode materials in 2016 and is expanding its production capacity to 36,000 tonnes in 2018.

The main products produced by Changyuan include, lithium cobalt oxide and lithium manganese oxide batteries, and ternary composite lithium-ion cathode materials.

Sayona declared the MoU provides and avenue for advancing discussions to facilitate a development alliance exploring marketing, technical and financial opportunities for the company’s Authier project located in Quebec, Canada.

These include:

Changyuan purchasing up to 100,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate per annum;

Development partnerships for the value-adding of the concentrates into lithium carbonate and/or lithium hydroxide in either China or Canada; and

Funding and investment opportunities for Sayona and the Authier project.

“The company has been exploring a number of options on how it best realises value from the Authier project,” Sayona Mining chief executive officer Corey Nolan said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“The alliance with Changyuan represents a timely, exciting path forward as the company moves towards completing its Definitive Feasibility and meeting its objective of producing first concentrates in 2019/2020, and capitalising on the projected high price environment for spodumene concentrates.”



Blackstone Minerals Quadruples Little Gem Target Zone

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Blackstone Minerals (ASX: BSX) announced the acquisition of extensive land holdings along strike from the company’s high-grade Little Gem cobalt-gold project in Canada.

Blackstone Minerals said the acquisition provides the company with a land position over a mineralised belt proven to host very high-grade gold and cobalt.

By doing so, Blackstone has increased its target strike zone from 12 kilometres to over 48 kilometres of strike, taking the Little Gem project tenure to now cover some 335 square kilometres.

Blackstone made the purchase following its first phase of exploration at Little Gem, where the company previously announced confirmation of high-grade cobalt (up to 6.2 per cent) and gold (up to 137 grams per tonne) mineralisation it says is associated with the contact between serpentinized ultramafics and granodiorites.

The company claims this style of mineralisation to be analogous to the world class Bou-Azzer District of Morocco, which has produced over 100,000 tonnes of cobalt metal and tens of tons of gold.

Recent rock chip sample from historical adits at Little Gem returned 6.2 per cent cobalt and 46g/t gold.

Surface channel samples of massive sulphides returned assays up to 0.4m at 5.7 per cent cobalt  and 1,574g/t (≈50 oz) gold and 1.8m at 5.1 per cent cobalt  and 17.8g/t gold.

Underground adit channel sampling of massive sulphides returned multiple high-grade intersections including 1.8m at 4.4 per cent cobalt and 73g/t gold and 2m at 3.1 per cent cobalt and 76g/t gold.

Blackstone has also claimed discovery of a new prospect – Roxey, located 1.5km along strike from Little Gem hosting surface mineralisation of up to 24g/t gold and 1.9 per cent copper.

“Having only recently secured the acquisition, the company is delighted to have been able to substantially grow Little Gem, into a project with real scale, particularly in a district which hosts such compelling high-grade cobalt and gold mineralisation,” Blackstone Minerals managing director Hamish Halliday said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“Blackstone looks forward to an aggressive exploration campaign over the coming year.”



Kin Mining Extends Cardinia Gold Zones

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Kin Mining (ASX: KIN) declared RC drilling has extended mineralisation at the company’s Leonora Gold Project (LGP) in Western Australia.

Kin Mining is conducting the drilling targeting high-grade extensions at two key deposits; Helens and Lewis, both located within the Cardinia Mining Centre.

The company announced the RC drilling has confirmed in excess of 100 metres of high-grade gold mineralisation along strike at both Helens and Helens East deposits.

The mineralisation now extends at depth well below the proposed open pits and the system remains open.

Highlights include:

2 metres at 18.5 grams per tonne gold from 5m, including 1m at 35g/t gold, and 2m at 3.34g/t gold from 88m to End of Hole;

5m at 5g/t gold from 80m, including 1m at 15g/t gold; and

3m at 3.7g/t gold from 72m, including 1m at 8g/t gold.

Assay results from drilling at the Fiona prospect immediately north of HE17RC128 are awaited.

Further RC Drilling is currently underway at the nearby East Lynne deposit, designed to test bonanza results intersected in hole EL17RC003 of 3m at 209g/t gold, from surface, which included o 1m at 551g/t gold.

“Current drilling is designed to test open extensions of mineralised ore shoots at Cardinia,” Kin Mining said in its ASZX announcement.

“Our team is extremely pleased to announce that initial results from the current drilling campaign at the Helens Resource area have intersected significant mineralisation that confirms gold mineralisation outside the current pit designs.”



Alloy Resources Begins RC Drilling At Ophara

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Alloy Resources (ASX: AYR), with all approvals in place, has commenced RC drilling at the company’s Ophara project located 50 kilometres west of Broken Hill in New South Wales.

Alloy Resources explained the drilling is targeting discrete bedrock EM anomalies of moderate to strong conductance defined by the recent helicopter-borne VTEM survey.

Alloy is testing its concept that the conductors are likely to represent moderate to shallowly dipping ‘stratabound’ sulphide mineralisation, which it claims is similar to the geometry and geology of mineralisation observed by drilling at the Great Goulburn prospect and also at the very large Thackaringa cobalt deposits which contain 50,000 tonnes of cobalt in a 54.9 million tonne Mineral Resource.

“The conductance of the targets is much greater than the Thackaringa deposits and the Great Gouburn prospect and drilling is required to explain the source of the targets,” Alloy Resources said in its ASX announcement.

“Five priority conductor targets have been selected for initial drill testing by nine RC drill holes.

“As depth of weathering in the area is generally 20 to 60 metres, drilling will aim to intersect the conductive body at approximately 100 metres depth.”



Sayona Mining Lodges Authier Drilling Permits

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Sayona Mining (ASX: SYA) announced the lodgement of drilling permits for a Phase 3 resource expansion drilling program to be undertaken at the company’s Authier lithium project in Quebec, Canada.

Sayona Mining indicated it is planning a diamond drilling program of up to 3,000 metres commencing in early November.

The objectives of the drilling program, include:

Collecting up to 5 tonnes of drill core for a pilot metallurgical testing program. The pilot program data will be used for inputs into the process plant design in the Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS);

Infill definition drilling within the main resource zone where the mineralisation is not well defined and is currently treated as waste. This has the potential to reduce the waste to ore ratio;

Potential expansion of the northern pegmatite zone which intersected 7 metres at 1.36 per cent lithium oxide from 15 metres in the last drilling program; and

Completion of geotechnical drilling to enable finalisation of the pit wall slopes for the DFS.

“The drilling and pilot metallurgy programs will be the last major work programs before completion of the DFS in early 2018,” Sayona Mining said in its ASX announcement.



Mincor Resources Updates Widgiemooltha Gold Resources

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Mincor Resources (ASX: MCR) updated the gold Mineral Resources at the company’s Widgiemooltha gold project (WGP) in Western Australia.

Mincor Resources said the update was part of the progress the company is making with its plans to bring the 100 per cent-owned Widgiemooltha gold project into production in early 2018.

The company has received key regulatory approvals from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) allowing the commencement of mining operations at the WGP and the Mineral Resources have been updated to incorporate the results from two drilling programs.

Gold Mineral Resources at Widgiemooltha now stand at 267,100 ounces of gold, an increase of 29,070 ounces at a discovery cost of $9.60 per ounce.

Mincor’s global Gold Resources inventory sits at approximately 328,660 ounces of gold.

“The updated Gold Mineral Resources show how the Widgiemooltha project rewards drilling, with a respectable discovery cost of less than $10 per ounce achieved,” Mincor Resources managing director Peter Muccilli said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“The Flinders West discovery could underpin an improved mining schedule with enhanced start-up economics. Importantly, the mineralisation trends around Flinders remain open.

“Results from the latest drilling program will give further insight into this potential.

“On the nickel front, we have also been very encouraged with the recent rises in the nickel price and we are closely monitoring the fundamentals behind the growing positive sentiment for the commodity.

“Mincor has a high-quality nickel sulphide asset base in a Tier-1 nickel province.

“Our pipeline for growth is quite exceptional for a junior company.”


Metalicity Conducting Lithium Review

THE DRILL SERGEANT: Metalicity (ASX: MCT) is conducting a geological review of its four lithium projects in Western Australia.

Metalicity has appointed CSA Global to conduct the review charged with the aim of generating new targets and prioritising existing targets for future drilling.

Metalicity has put together a sizeable landholding in Australia’s two key lithium producing districts, the Greenbushes district and the Wodgina-Pilgangoora district.

Previous targeting work conducted by Metalicity has focussed on mapping of pegmatites at its Pilgangoora North project and the Stannum prospect within its Wodgina South project.

This area represents approximately 20 per cent of the company’s lithium-prospective land package and it believes there to be potential to generate new targets for drilling within these two hard rock lithium producing regions.

From recent field work at the Pilgangoora North project, Metalicity confirmed that pegmatites interpreted from satellite imagery, are present; some of which host anomalous lithium values.

An initial four-hole 600m reverse circulation percussion (RCP) drill program was undertaken aimed at testing pegmatites in the southern portion of the project area the company had interpreted to be extensions of the Lynas Find deposit pegmatite system.

Although this was a very limited drill program, pegmatites were intersected in every hole.

No significant levels of lithium were encountered in this program, however Metalicity said it had been encouraged by the continuity and thickness of the pegmatites, which it determined to be comparable to the Pilgangoora deposits to the south.

“The initial four-hole drill program at Pilgangoora North targeted the most accessible pegmatites which represent a small fraction of the mapped or interpreted pegmatites that have been identified at the project, some of which are confirmed from rock chip sampling as lithium bearing,” Metalicity managing director Matt Gauci said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“Given the size of the company’s lithium portfolio and interest from end users in the sector, we believe this is a right time to appoint lithium experts from CSA Global to conduct a targeting review of our entire lithium portfolio and determine the best strategy to progress these assets.”