Atlas Lithium on track for Q4 spodumene output, announces expansion in Brazil

US-headquartered Atlas Lithium decided to expand its investment into Brazilian hard-rock lithium feedstock resources with the acquisition of new exploration permits ahead of scheduled first production from its Neves project in the fourth quarter, the company announced on Monday June 17

Neves just needs a final environmental license to commence production, Fastmarkets understands; the official start-up remains scheduled for the fourth quarter, but it could be slightly delayed into the beginning of 2025.

Atlas is preparing a definitive feasibility study for the area, to be published before the fourth quarter, the company said on Monday. Alongside it, the company expects to release an updated mineral resource estimate report.

With the new investments, Atlas is going further down south from the Jequitinhonha Valley in Brazil – dubbed the “Lithium Valley” by the local government. Atlas believes it will become the largest holder of Brazil’s mineral rights for lithium exploration with 53,942 hectares (133,294 acres), all in the country’s southeastern Minas Gerais state.

Besides the soon-to-be operating Neves project, the company highlighted the Coronel Murta project just 50 km to the northwest and the newest Valadares project 300 km to the south near the city of Governador Valadares.

Governador Valadares is located on Minas Gerais’ Rio Doce Valley, the same that gave miner giant Vale its original name (Companhia Vale do Rio Doce). Atlas’ nearby project is exploring pegmatite-rich deposits that have been partially tapped by artisanal miners, with spodumene crystal samples retuning grades above 3.23%.

“Our new mineral rights near Governador Valadares provide access to an exciting new lithium frontier in Brazil that has been relatively untapped beyond gemstone mining,” Atlas’ chief geology officer James Abson said in a press release. “This region… hosts dozens of documented lithium-rich pegmatites.”

Spodumene, lepidolite and amblygonite were all found during research on mineral occurrences at Valadares, Atlas said. There were also reports of columbite-tantalite.

Neves is almost sold out after Atlas entered into an offtake agreement with Mitsui, following two other deals with Chengxin Lithium Group and Yahua Industrial Group. The site is set to produce 150,000 tonnes per year of spodumene concentrate, with the potential to double that volume in a future Phase 2.

Spodumene prices have been under pressure in the past month after a slight rebound from three-year lows in the beginning of 2024, amid aggressive bidding from consumers and on weaker lithium chemical market conditions.

Fastmarkets’ daily assessment for spodumene min 6% Li2O, spot price, cif China was $1,075-1,125 per tonne on Tuesday June 18, down by $5-10 per tonne from $1,080-1,135 per tonne on Monday and down by $25-50 per tonne from $1,100-1,175 per tonne a week earlier.

But the latest spodumene price assessment was up by $225-275 per tonne from the 2024 low of $800-900 per tonne on January 24-February 23.

“Pushing towards becoming a producer of lithium concentrate is our top focus in the short term,” Atlas’ vice president of business development Nick Rowley said in the Monday press release.

Brazil is already an important spodumene producer, with Companhia Brasileira de Lítio (CBL) and AMG Brasil being in the market for years. In the second quarter of 2023, Sigma Lithium joined that group and quickly became the country’s largest producer.

Latin Resources and Lithium Ionic also own projects which are expected to come online in the next few years, solidifying Brazil’s relevance in the global spodumene market.

Fastmarkets’ research team forecasts Brazilian output at 76,000 tpy of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) by 2034, up from 45,550 tpy estimated for 2024.

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