According to provisional data published on Wednesday April 1, the company shipped 33,893 tonnes of lithium spodumene in the March quarter, while the previously announced sales guidance was 35,000-50,000 tonnes.

Pilbara Minerals also said that it had 10,150 tonnes of spodumene stocks at the mine and port by the end of March.

The company ended the quarter with A$108.2 million ($65.66 million) in cash and irrevocable bank letters of credit (LCs) for shipments completed within the March quarter, after paying all operating costs, capital expenditures, corporate costs and interest expenses. This was an increase of A$2.7 million compared with the end of the December 2019 quarter.

"The solid operational and financial performance of the Pilgangoora Project during the March quarter shows that our moderated production strategy continues to defend the business, despite the relatively weak backdrop of demand both before and during the Covid-19 [pandemic] in China," Ken Brinsden, Pilbara Minerals’ managing director and chief executive officer, said.

The company has been focusing on plant improvements and matching site production and available stocks to demand, it said.

"Improved product recoveries, lower operating costs and the continued ability to ship product to customers, despite the global disruptions as a result of Covid-19, enabled us to strengthen our balance sheet during the quarter," the company added.

Regarding the knock-on effects of the pandemic, Pilbara Minerals said that it was monitoring the situation in China and elsewhere, and will continue to engage with existing customers and potential customers on future spodumene concentrate sales and shipments.

Reduced trading activity and softer lithium prices maintained the pressure on the market, and Fastmarkets assessed the price of spodumene 5-6% Li2O min, cif China, at $450-500 per tonne on March 25, down month on month from $470-530 per tonne.

The coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences look likely to hurt prices further, Pilbara Minerals said, with fears of an economic slowdown intensifying.