Pilbara completes purchase of neighboring Altura lithium project

Lithium miner Pilbara Minerals has completed the acquisition of Altura Lithium, it said on Wednesday January 20.

The transaction makes Pilbara Minerals the 100% owner of the Altura project, which is adjacent to Pilbara’s existing spodumene operation in Western Australia.

Pilbara Minerals said the acquisition has created the largest independent hardrock lithium mining and processing operation in the world.

The Altura project will remain on care and maintenance while Pilbara undertakes work to determine the future operating strategy.

Pilbara Minerals’ nameplate production capacity is 330,000 tonnes per year of 6% spodumene concentrate, with a stage 2 expansion planned to ultimately increase production of spodumene concentrate to 800,000-850,000 tpy. Altura has a nameplate capacity of 220,000 tpy of lithium spodumene concentrate.

Pilbara Minerals noted that once operations resume the company will have two processing plants, providing capacity to ramp up production in response to future increases in demand.

Pilbara Minerals has been operating a moderated production strategy since 2019 due to falling lithium chemical prices, but sales took a sharp upturn in the last three months of 2020.

The company shipped a record volume of 70,609 tonnes of spodumene concentrate during the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with just 33,178 tonnes during the same period of 2019.

Lithium prices in China are surging due to producers’ limited availability of spot materials.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range exw domestic China was 54,000-60,000 yuan ($8,343-9,270) per tonne on Thursday January 14, up 5.6% from 50,000-58,000 yuan per tonne the previous week. The market is trading at its highest since November 7, 2019, when it stood at 54,000-57,000 yuan per tonne.

The price of spodumene min 6% Li2O, cif China was 390-400 per tonne on December 30, up from $380-390 in November, but still well down from 480-550 per tonne a year earlier.

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