Altura’s lithium spodumene production rises by 43% in June quarter

Australian lithium spodumene company Altura Mining produced 42,402 tonnes of lithium spodumene concentrate at its lithium mine in Pilgangoora Western Australia, in the three months to June 30, up by 43% quarter by quarter.

This compares with 29,627 tonnes produced in the March quarter.

Altura started stage 1 production Pilgangoora at the end of 2018 with nameplate capacity for 220,000 tonnes per year of lithium spodumene. Since then, the company has been gradually ramping up production, citing a timescale of two to three years

The company sold 38,491 tonnes of lithium spodumene in June quarter up from 14,770 tonnes of the same material sold in March quarter.

In the 2019 financial year ended June 30, Altura produced 105,202 tonnes of lithium spodumene concentrate and sold 77,680 tonnes of the same material.

Altura achieved an average price of $600 per tonne on a cif China basis for its min 6% lithium spodumene concentrate in the June quarter.

Fastmarkets’ monthly spodumene (min 5-6% Li2O) contract price was assessed at $585-650 per tonne cif China on June 26, down from $600-670 per tonne on May 29.

Altura achieved an average operating cash cost of $392 per tonne on a fob basis in the quarter, although it did not say if this was higher or lower than in the previous quarter. This situates Altura at the low end of the cost curve compared with other lithium spodumene concentrate producers.

Altura’s strong production numbers reach the market at a time of global oversupply of lithium chemical compounds and lower prices. Lithium spodumene concentrate is used as a raw material to produce other lithium compounds such as lithium carbonate and hydroxide.

Although prices have been decreasing over the course of the past year due to the market oversupply, the relative higher production costs when using lithium spodumene as a raw material has kept lithium compound prices from falling further when compared with prices of lithium chemical compounds produced from brine.

The lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price exw China has fallen by 36.3% year on year to 67,000-70,000 yuan ($9,741-10,178) per tonne on Thursday July 25, from 105,000-110,000 yuan per tonne on July 19, 2018.

Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price range exw China has fallen by 41.1% over the same period to 75,000-80,000 yuan per tonne, from 128,000-135,000 yuan per tonne on July 19, 2018.

New offtake
Altura also said it reached a new offtake agreement with Shandong Ruifu, a Chinese lithium carbonate and hydroxide converter, in the June quarter.

Altura will supply Shandong Ruifu with a minimum of 35,000 tonnes per year of 6% lithium spodumene concentrate, produced from its lithium mine at Pilgangoora in Western Australia, for a period of five years from July 2019 until June 2024.

The agreement with Shandong Ruifu was reached at a time of depressed prices in the lithium industry, but showcases that long-term demand for lithium compounds in China persists, Fastmarkets reported earlier in July.