Aspiring lithium producer AVZ Minerals (ASX: AVZ) has revealed the front end engineering design (FEED) for its Manono lithium-tin project in the Democratic Republic of Congo was 70% complete, with an updated feasibility study progressing and work on a mining lease application advancing.
AVZ managing director Nigel Ferguson noted the advancing project was occurring at time where lithium demand was increasing, and fuelling “steep” rises in the spodumene price since the beginning of 2021.
“With expectations that structural supply deficits will remain and as the uptake of electric vehicles continues to increase around the globe, the current upward price trends for both spodumene concentrate and lithium chemical products are expected to continue,” Mr Ferguson added.
DRC Government engagement
The company is “actively engaging” with the new DRC Government cabinet that was appointed by Prime Minister Jean Michel Sama Lukonde earlier this month.
At the government’s request, AVZ is adding further information to its Manono special economic zone (MSEZ) technical, development, environmental and financial documentation.
AVZ expects to submit the updated documents “shortly” and anticipates the DRC Government will grant the MSEZ before the end of the month.
Meanwhile, the DRC’s Ministry of Hydraulic Resources and Electricity has validated company’s feasibility study for the proposed refurbishment of the Mpiana Mwanga hydro-electric power plant.
Once the next stage of negotiations has concluded, AVZ expects subsidiary AVZ Power will receive a 20-year renewable contract to operate the plant.
Front end engineering design and other studies advancing
Other work that is progressing at Manono includes the FEED study, which is now 70% complete.
A hydrogeological study was also recently finished and included in the company’s environmental and social impact application.
This application along with the definitive feasibility study are required to be included in the mining lease submission process.
Pit optimisation work is also underway along with a desktop evaluation of tin and tantalum deposits at the project.
Meanwhile, Noram is progressing the lithium hydroxide monohydrate flow sheet for the project to produce a primary lithium sulphate from mined Manono spodumene.
This program is due for completion in June.
With various workstreams progressing at Manono to drive it towards development, financing negotiations have also continued.
AVZ has been “actively engaging” with commercial banks, brokers, private equity investors and non-commercial lenders such as Pan-African Development Finance Institutions.
The company stated these negotiations were “making good progress” with several interested “reputable” global institutions undertaking due diligence.