Phase 1 Plant Project

Key metrics for the Feasibility Study scope* are as follows:

  • Design plant throughput rate increased from 3.6tph to 6.9tph of lithium mica concentrate, Q3 2018
  • Battery grade lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) production of 2500tpa nominal, with debottlenecked capacity of 5,000tpa LCE
  • Optimised engineering completed Q4 2018
  • Plant commissioning target late 2020
Phase 1 Plant Overview TOGGLE

The Feasibility Study (FS) commenced in May 2017, and is being conducted to a Class 3 level of cost estimate accuracy. In contrast to the Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS), the FS is based on a vertically integrated model from mine and concentrator to L-Max® lithium chemical plant.

Preliminary engineering for the Phase 1 L-Max® Plant was completed by Lycopodium Minerals Pty Ltd in late 2017 based on a nominal throughput rate of 3.6 tonnes per hour, for annual output – depending on the concentrate feed grade – of between 2,500t and 3,000t of lithium carbonate. To more precisely determine the capacity of major equipment for the Phase 1 L-Max® Plant a vendor testwork program was subsequently undertaken and completed in mid-2018. The objective of the vendor program was to precisely determine the capacity of the major equipment employed in the Plant. The findings of this work coupled with ongoing process optimisation testwork resulted in a number of plant design modifications that simplify the process flowsheet, with positive implications for both capital and operating costs. These improvements, which include the S-MaxTM circuit design, were incorporated into the final design for the Phase 1 Plant, which is based on a nominal concentrate throughput rate of approximately seven tonnes per hour to produce approximately 5,000 tpa of LCE. Final engineering was completed in December 2018 and is subsequently being reviewed by Lepidico prior to the scheduled completion of the Feasibility Study.

Environmental baseline activities for both the plant site and associated residue storage facility commenced in September 2017 at one of the Company’s preferred locations for the Phase 1 Plant in Sudbury, Canada. This work was completed in the December 2018 quarter. The two sites short listed have excellent existing infrastructure including road, rail, power, gas, water and town sewer.  These sites also represent options for locating a future full-scale plant development.

Following receipt of favourable geochemical, geotechnical and material characterisation testwork Lepidico committed to a three month research collaboration with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and Knight Piésold Ltd in October 2018. The purpose of the project was to characterise samples of the blended residue streams from the L-Max® process and assess this material as a by-product for use in land reclamation applications. Favourable results were received from this project and further investigative work is planned.

The Phase 1 Plant feasibility study continues to contemplate the development of a Residue Storage Facility (RSF).  However, assuming the land reclamation reside project is successful, the need to have a dedicated RSF on site may be eliminated, thereby making the Phase 1 Plant a “zero waste” facility, and result in further capital and operating cost savings.

L-Max® Process Testwork TOGGLE

During 2017, Lepidico announced the results of the Phase 1 Plant PFS, by lead consultant MinMet Services Pty Ltd. The study confirmed the viability of constructing a strategically located Phase 1 L-Max®plant in Eastern Canada via processing lithium-mica concentrates purchased from third-party suppliers.

The study was based on a small scale, commercial L-Max®plant processing a lithium-mica concentrate feed at a rate of 3.6 tonnes per hour (tph) to produce approximately 3,000 tonnes per annum of battery grade lithium carbonate and a suite of commercially important by-products.

As part of the PFS, a lepidolite sample containing approximately 40% mica and 2.2% Li2O was subjected to a series of batch tests to assess the amenability of the run of mine mineralisation for lithium extraction and recovery by L-Max®.

The sample processed was from the Separation Rapids project, owned by Avalon Advanced Materials Ltd, with whom Lepidico has a Letter of Intent to acquire lithium concentrate.

Flotation of the sample from Separation Rapids achieved a lithium recovery to concentrate of 96% and produced a high-grade mica concentrate containing 4.5% Li2O that was used as feed for the L-Max®process test-work. Ultimately, Li2CO3of 99.88% purity was produced. Individual metallurgical recoveries by compound are outlined in the table below.

During 2017, Lepidico announced the results of the Phase 1 Plant PFS, by lead consultant MinMet Services Pty Ltd. The study confirmed the viability of constructing a strategically located Phase 1 L-Max®plant in Eastern Canada via processing lithium-mica concentrates purchased from third-party suppliers.

The study was based on a small scale, commercial L-Max®plant processing a lithium-mica concentrate feed at a rate of 3.6 tonnes per hour (tph) to produce approximately 3,000 tonnes per annum of battery grade lithium carbonate and a suite of commercially important by-products.

As part of the PFS, a lepidolite sample containing approximately 40% mica and 2.2% Li2O was subjected to a series of batch tests to assess the amenability of the run of mine mineralisation for lithium extraction and recovery by L-Max®.

The sample processed was from the Separation Rapids project, owned by Avalon Advanced Materials Ltd, with whom Lepidico has a Letter of Intent to acquire lithium concentrate.

Flotation of the sample from Separation Rapids achieved a lithium recovery to concentrate of 96% and produced a high-grade mica concentrate containing 4.5% Li2O that was used as feed for the L-Max®process test-work. Ultimately, Li2CO3of 99.88% purity was produced. Individual metallurgical recoveries by compound are outlined in the table below.

The PFS test-work produced consistent results and coupled with a compelling economic assessment provided the confidence for Lepidico to commit to undertaking a feasibility study.

Equipment selection for the Phase 1 Plant represents a smaller version of the equipment required for a larger full scale plant, with anticipated production capacity of 15,000-25,000 tonnes per annum of lithium carbonate. This is intended to minimise the scale-up risk at larger throughputs. The path from PFS batch test-work to full scale commercial operation incorporates several development milestones. The continuous operation of a mini-plant followed by construction of a commercially viable small scale plant prior to a full scale commercial operation are critical steps in reducing project risk and optimising the process for continuous operation.

Alvarrões Lepidolite Mine TOGGLE

Lepidico has an ore access agreement with Grupo Mota, operator of the Alvarrões lepidolite mine located in Goncalo, Portugal. In late calendar 2017, LPD completed a drilling program in the existing mine to further delineate Lepidolite reserves. The drilling identified a number of vertical stacked sills running from the mine face back into the hillside. A JORC compliant Inferred Mineral Resource of 1.5 Mt grading 1.1% lithium oxide was estimated. This Resource has the potential to provide ten years feed to the proposed Phase 1 Plant. The Resource is open and further development work is planned for late 2018.

A preliminary mine plan was developed based on an ore mining rate of up to 150,000 tonnes per year. It is planned that the mined ore will be processed on site by a new concentrator facility with nominal annual output of 30,000 tonnes of lithium mica concentrate.  The concentrate will be containerised and transported to port for shipping to the Phase 1 plant.

Process design criteria for the upstream concentrator is scheduled to be completed during the June 2019 quarter.  One of the designs being considered for the study is the Outotec cPlant. The cPlant Concentrator offers a cost effective, flexible solution, ideal for projects with modest capacity needs and/or in remote locations. The plant is based on pre-fabricated and functionally tested modules inside container-sized steel frames that can be easily transported and installed, and quickly connected.  Some of the stated benefits of cPlant include: reduced EPC project costs compared to a conventional flotation plant; up to 20% lower capital investment; requires 30% less labour resources; 95% of installation and pre-commissioning done prior to delivery; minimal civil engineering work required; and ease of relocation.

Flotation testwork using Alvarrões ores successfully separated a high quality lithium mica concentrate as well as separate feldspar and quartz concentrates that may be sold by Grupo Mota to the local ceramics industry. It is anticipated the volume of residual waste from the concentrator will be modest allowing for co-disposal of concentrator fines with mine waste.