Piedmont Lithium and Sayona defy market trends to ramp up production in Québec

Go to Colin Hay author's page
By Colin Hay - 
Piedmont Lithium ASX PLL Quebec NAL project ramp-up

While many of its peers have chosen to cut back lithium production due to the decline in prices, Piedmont Lithium (ASX: PLL) has elected to head in the opposite direction.

Following a detailed operational review, Piedmont and its joint venture partners in the North American Lithium (NAL) project have agreed to complete several ongoing capital project initiatives and continue operations with the goal of completing ramp-up activities to achieve strong production targets this year.

NAL – located in Québec, Canada – is jointly owned by Piedmont (25%) and Sayona Mining (ASX: SYA) (75%) and is considered critical to the US electric vehicle supply chain.

The operational review assessed the pace of the production ramp-up in the context of a challenging lithium price environment and concluded that operations are generally proceeding as planned.

It also found that two important capital improvement projects should help operations achieve production increases and positive unit cost improvements.

The crushed ore storage dome and crushed ore re-feed system are both expected to be commissioned in May 2024.

Improved mining costs

Piedmont’s president and chief executive officer Keith Phillips said unit mining costs are expected to improve as operations move past underground workings and into fresh ore near the end of 2024.

“As the largest producing spodumene mine in North America, NAL is strategically important to our portfolio, our customers and the market,” Mr Phillips said.

“NAL production has been ramping up well, albeit in a challenging lithium market.”

“With the imminent completion of important capital improvement projects expected to lead to production increases and operating cost improvements, we believe the project is well-positioned for the market recovery we anticipate and to operate successfully over the long term.”

Production above expectations

The NAL joint venture is already achieving better-than-expected process plant recoveries as part of the project’s ramp-up process.

March month-to-date lithium recoveries were 69%, exceeding the ramp-up target of 67%, with a global recovery of 62% during the July 2023 through March 2024 period.

Production of spodumene concentrate has also achieved steady improvements with several daily production records achieved in March 2024, including the newest daily production record of 740 tonnes.

Current plant throughput rates are in line with forecast expectations at 161t per hour and product quality remains consistent at 5.45% lithium with moisture and other elements in line with expectations.