Lithium developer Altura Mining (ASX: AJM) is set to announce finalised sales deals “in coming weeks”, ahead of the first shipment of spodumene concentrates from its flagship Altura lithium project in Western Australia.
The company today updated its shareholders on the commissioning progress of its wholly-owned project, located at Pilgangoora in the north of the state.
Altura completed the first stage of commissioning in May, with crushed ore now stockpiled and ready for processing.
Over the past four weeks, ongoing work included commissioning of the flotation circuit with first the fill of collector and other reagents, the completion of ball mill works, the start of verification testing on the plant dust suppression system, as well as recruitment to fill 90% of required positions.
In addition, Altura senior management spent time in China finalising product pricing, cargo sizes and the delivery schedule, with the 2018 and 2019 shipping forecasts and finalised sales agreements expected to be completed and announced “in coming weeks”.
“Our recent China visit continued to echo the strong demand for more lithium supply,” Altura managing director James Brown said.
“We are also still receiving regular demand queries from other sources as the project comes on line,” he added.
Offtake partner Lionergy will take the first shipment of spodumene concentrate with a vessel expected to be arranged for the delivery between July and mid-August.
According to Altura, Lionergy also indicated it would like to receive as much as possible of the 100,000 tonne-per-annum minimum supply allocation under its binding offtake agreement as the Pilgangoora-based project ramps up in the second half of this year.
Lionergy is planning to use the production to undertake large-scale lithium carbonate conversion testing at its lithium carbonate/lithium hydroxide plant in Inner Mongolia.
Stage one of Lionergy’s plant, which will process 120,000tpa of spodumene concentrate to produce about 15,000tpa lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), is scheduled for completion in the 2018 fourth quarter.
The second stage, which should double the plant’s capacity to 30,000tpa LCE, is eyed for completion in the second half of 2019.
Altura said its recent China visit also included positive talks with other offtake partner Shaanxi J&R Optimum Energy, which is currently undergoing a re-structure plan. This process is yet to conclude, however, and Altura stated there has been no change to any agreements with this company.
Resources and reserves boost
At the end of last month, Altura delivered an upgraded ore reserve and mineral resource estimate for the Altura lithium project following the completion of a drilling program in the Southern Ridge deposit area.
The new estimate was revised to a mineral resource of 50.5 million tonnes at 1.01% lithium oxide and 512,000 tonnes of contained lithium oxide, and an ore reserve of 41.1Mt at 1.05% lithium oxide and 432,000t of contained lithium oxide, including 8.3Mt in the proved category.
According to the company, the upgrade has added two years to the mine life of the project and will be incorporated into the stage two expansion that was the subject of a recent definitive feasibility study.
Altura’s share price saw an early rise by 1.4% to A$0.36 following this morning’s update, but had dropped to A$0.35 (1.41% down) by early afternoon trade.