Pilbara Minerals finalizes spodumene refining project

Australia-based spodumene miner Pilbara Minerals has entered into a joint venture (JV) agreement with technology start-up Calix for the development of a demonstration plant to refine spodumene into midstream lithium salts

Pilbara Minerals said on Monday November 28 that the JV will utilize Calix-patented technology for the demonstration project.

The miner initially announced a scoping study on the potential project earlier this year.

Participating interests in the JV will be Pilbara Minerals (55%) and Calix (45%), the companies said. The demonstration plant would process Pilbara Mineral’s ore into a midstream lithium product near the company’s Pilgangoora Project hard-rock mining site in Western Australia.

A final investment decision on the demonstration plant is to be made in the first half of 2023.

The aim of the JV is to deliver a superior value-added lithium product, enabling lower product costs, reduced carbon energy intensity and a reduction of waste product logistics, the companies said.

Western Australia is a key region for the production of spodumene, and in turn, lithium; at present, the majority of the upstream hard-rock mineral is shipped to China, where most of the global refining capacity is located.

Lithium is a key ingredient in the rechargeable batteries that are leading the energy transition globally.

The companies added that they were in discussions with the Australian government for a A$20 million ($13.4 million) grant. If successful, the technology could be scaled up to commercial production and potentially licensed to third parties, they said.

Spodumene prices have risen to new highs in recent weeks, supported by supply tightness and strong demand from the downstream electric vehicle battery sector.

Other major participants in the lithium value chain recently announced investments to add value to spodumene in Western Australia while western economies aim to diversify and strengthen their supply chains.

Fastmarkets’ fortnightly assessment of the spodumene min 6% Li2O, spot price, cif China was $8,000-8,575 per tonne on Thursday November 24, up by 4.91% from $7,800-8,000 per tonne on November 10. The price was assessed at $2,400-2,600 per tonne at the beginning of the year.

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