Argosy Minerals starts lithium carbonate output at Rincon pilot plant; aims to be next producer in Argentina

Argosy Minerals has started lithium carbonate production at its industrial-scale pilot plant at its flagship Rincon lithium project in Argentina, it said late last week.

The Australian junior lithium miner owns 77.5% of Puna Mining SA, the company that holds 100% of Rincon, which is located in the northern province of Salta in the South American lithium triangle. Upon reaching the commercial operations, Argosy will hold 90% of Puna Mining.

Argosy will produce 100 tonnes per year of lithium carbonate from its stand-alone pilot plant to supply Mitsubishi Corporation, with which it has a 12-month offtake agreement that was agreed on March 28.

The company is concentrating its brine up to 3% at the Rincon lithium project; it has been producing min 99.5% lithium carbonate at its pilot plant, which has been qualified by Mitsubishi, the company told Fastmarkets.

Although Argosy did not disclose the price at which it agreed to sell its min 99.5% lithium carbonate to Mitsubishi, it said that the formula that they agreed will use an industry-standard benchmark index.

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan & Korea at $10.50-12 per kg on Thursday July 4, down from $11-12.50 per kg a week earlier.

Argosy is now waiting for the necessary permits and to secure the funding to build a new lithium carbonate processing plant at Rincon to produce up to 2,000 tpy of lithium carbonate, Argosy managing director Jerko Zuvela told Fastmarkets.

“We have $5 million in cash [but] estimate that we currently need up to [another] $15 million to fully fund this plant,” Zuvela said “Our preference is to work with our current partner but we are open to different investors to finance or to help us.”

“We wouldn’t rule out the integration of our project in Rincon with a downstream company,” he added.

Ground works started at Rincon in February 2017. As of today, Argosy has installed three production lines and has 17 operational evaporation brine ponds there, Zuvela told Fastmarkets.

“Once we have secured financing and the permits, I am confident we would take up to 15 months to build the plant,” he added.

Over the longer term, Argosy is looking to scale up operations at Rincon to 10,000 tpy of lithium carbonate production. It does not a specific timetable for this, however.

“We are currently looking to produce lithium carbonate but would be also open to produce lithium hydroxide in the future,” Zuvela also told Fastmarkets.

He estimated the cost of expanding to 10,000 tpy of lithium carbonate at $120 million after deducting the required expenditure of $20 million to raise production to 2,000 tpy.

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