Pilbara to restart former Altura project; spodumene digital auction scheduled for July

Pilbara Minerals’ board has approved a staged restart at the Ngungaju lithium project, set for the December quarter of 2021, the company announced on Friday June 25.

Pilbara completed the acquisition of the Altura Lithium in January, thereby becoming the 100% owner of Altura’s Pilgangoora lithium project, which was promptly renamed Ngungaju. The project has been on care and maintenance since late October 2020.

Pilbara is targeting full annual production capacity of 180,000-200,000 dry metric tonnes (dmt) at Ngungaju by the middle of 2022. Once fully ramped up, Pilbara’s combined annual production capacity at its Pilgangoora operation – which also consists of the Pilgan plant – will increase to 560,000-580,000 dmt per year, the company said.

The decision to increase lithium production was made in response to strong demand conditions, it added.

The lithium miner also said it is expecting to ship a record amount of spodumene concentrate in the June quarter, of approximately 96,000 dmt.

Pilbara’s spodumene output for the quarter ended March 31 was up by 22.1% from the prior quarter at 77,820 dmt, while total shipments were up by 0.9% at 71,299 dmt despite port delays.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for spodumene 6% Li2O min, cif China narrowed upward by $10 per tonne to $650-720 per tonne on May 26, from $640-720 per tonne on April 28. The feedstock price has surged by 73.4% since the end of last year.

“The well-timed acquisition of the Altura Lithium Operations provides Pilbara Minerals with available spodumene concentrate at the same time the market is expected to grow rapidly to deal with the mass global adoption of lithium-ion battery technology for use in clean energy applications,” Ken Brinsden, the company’s managing director and chief executive officer said.

He also noted the combination of unallocated spodumene offtake, burgeoning demand and a sophisticated sales channel in the Battery Minerals Exchange (BMX) platform makes for a potent combination at Pilbara’s mining assets.

Pilbara previously announced the BMX platform, which is a digital trading and sales platform for its uncommitted spodumene concentrate production.

The development of BMX has been completed and is ready for implementation, with the first cargo auction scheduled to take place during July 2021, the company said on Friday.