Altura Mining (ASX: AJM) has produced the first batch of lithium concentrate from its flagship wholly-owned namesake lithium project in Western Australia.
This milestone, which has officially transitioned the company from a developer to a miner, comes just 16 months after breaking ground at the Pilgangoora site in March 2017.
Since crushing operations commenced in May 2018, Altura has been working through the final commissioning stages of the project.
The company today reported that this process was close to completion with the ramp-up of production now underway.
Altura has an offtake deal with China-based Lionergy, which is planning to use the production from the Altura mine to undertake large-scale lithium carbonate conversion testing at its own lithium carbonate/lithium hydroxide plant in Inner Mongolia.
Last month, Lionergy had indicated it would like to receive as much as possible of the 100,000-tonne-per-annum minimum supply allocation under the binding agreement as the Altura project ramps up in the second half of this year.
Today, Altura said it was aiming at a shipping window next month to deliver the first shipment of lithium concentrate to Lionergy.
Product grade exceeds industry benchmark
Altura said it had been further encouraged by on-site testing of this first batch by laboratory operator Intek.
“The results have shown a concentrate product grade exceeding the industry benchmark SC6 concentrate specifications and fits comfortably within those required by the company’s offtake agreements,” the company stated.
It added that further plant optimisation would occur as production continued to ramp up over the coming months.
Altura managing director James Brown credited the “tireless” efforts of all individuals involved in the project, who worked to a “stringent and aggressive timetable”.
“Our focus now is to ramp-up production to full capacity over the coming six months and then we can turn our attention to the expansion project,” he said.
At full production, the processing plant is expected to produce 220,000tpa of 6% lithium concentrate for delivery into the electric vehicle and static storage lithium battery market.
Stage two, which should double the plant’s capacity to 440,000tpa of lithium concentrate, is anticipated for completion in the second half of 2019.