Emerging developer Core Lithium (ASX: CXO) (formerly Core Exploration) has been granted the Northern Territory’s first ever lithium-focused mineral lease for the Grants deposit, within its wholly-owned Finniss lithium project near Darwin.
Arriving three months earlier than anticipated, the lease was awarded by the Department of Primary Industry and Resources for a 20-year term and moves the NT a step closer to its first operating lithium mine.
It is expected the project will provide direct jobs for NT residents onsite, as well as flow-on effects for regional businesses through contracts and tenders.
Core managing director Stephen Biggins said the mineral lease was a significant milestone in the company’s history.
“We are now well on the way towards becoming the country’s first lithium producer outside of Western Australia,” he said.
“We expect to deliver the definitive feasibility study [on Grants] by March and are targeting first production from Finniss by year end.”
Early last month, Core confirmed it had raised $3 million (excluding costs) to further its exploration work, through the placement of 60 million new shares at an issue price of $0.05 per share.
The funds will be used to complete the Grants DFS and accelerate resource expansion at the Carlton, Hang Gong and Lees-Booth Link prospects within Finniss.
Chinese lithium giants and Core offtake partners Shandong RuiFu Lithium Co and Ya Hua International Investment and Development committed $1.5 million of new equity, with the remainder coming from sophisticated and professional investors as well as existing shareholders.
Core commenced reverse circulation drilling at the prospects shortly after the placement was finalised, aiming to expand the spodumene pegmatite mineralisation already identified and define initial mineral resource estimates to potentially improve the project’s overall lifespan and economics.
First assays returned from 10 step-out drill holes at Lees-Booths Link showed consistent lithium mineralisation up to 13m down hole width, with best results including 13m at 1.46% lithium oxide from 193m; 9m at 1.04% lithium oxide from 160m; and 4m at 1.72% lithium oxide from 227m.
The company has been testing earlier exploration results which showed a link between Lees and Booths, with the development of stacked, shallow-dipping pegmatites over a strike length of 1km, open to the north-west and south-east.
“These results are very encouraging, given this [link] was no more than a concept two months ago,” Mr Biggins said.
“We are now confident this concept applies to a number of areas in the northern part of the Finniss area.”
Final assays from four holes drilled at Hang Gong in November were equally encouraging, including 6m at 0.89% lithium oxide from 130m; and 3m at 1.25% lithium oxide.
Resource estimates for both prospects are expected this month and will join a maiden estimate released in mid-December for the Carlton deposit of 0.79 million tonnes at 1.3% lithium oxide.
At mid-afternoon, shares in Core were trading 5.36% higher at $0.059.