Mineral Resources has commenced a process to sell up to 49 per cent of its world-class 100 per cent-owned Wodgina Lithium Project as part of a planned offtake and partnering process.
|The new crushing plant at Mineral Resources’ Wodgina operations|
Wodgina, 100km south of Port Hedland in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, is the world’s largest hard rock lithium deposit with an upgraded JORC (2012) mineral resource of 233 million tonnes and an inaugural probable hard rock ore reserve in Casserite Pit of 142.4 million tonnes (Mt). This reserve supports a mine life of almost 30 years at a production rate of 5.65 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), with additional exploration upside remaining.
Mineral Resources is currently mining direct-shipping ore (DSO) at Wodgina to provide cash flow to the Company while it progresses the Wodgina open pit pre-strip and constructs its spodumene concentrate plant that has been designed to produce 750,000 dry tonnes per annum (tpa) of 6% spodumene concentrate.
The commencement of a process to sell up to 49per cent of Wodgina follows a significant number of unsolicited approaches to Mineral Resources from interested parties including lithium processors, battery manufacturers, international trading companies with marketing capabilities and automakers expressing interest in securing a direct investment in the project and/or offtake rights.
According to Mineral Resources Managing Director Chris Ellison, this minority sales process is in line with the company’s strategy of investing in early-stage projects, adding significant value and then seeking equity partners to share in the value from a full development plan.
“The decision to embark on a process to sell a minority interest in Wodgina will allow Mineral Resources to focus on its core strategy of being a world-leading mining services provider at the same time as having like-minded strategic partners invest with us to fully unlock Wodgina’s lithium potential”, said Mr Ellison.
“However, Mineral Resources will only introduce project partners if acceptable terms can be secured. Mineral Resources has the capability to finance and implement its downstream processing strategy at Wodgina on its own.”
Mineral Resources intends to introduce a small number of strategic partners to acquire up to 49% of Wodgina via an unincorporated joint venture, where Mineral Resources will provide complete pit to port mining services to the joint venture under a life of mine mining services agreement.
Update on Wodgina Spodumene Concentrate Plant
The upgrade of processing facilities and site infrastructure at Wodgina to support the Company’s new spodumene plant is progressing well.
The plant comprises three discrete trains, each with a capacity of 250,000 tpa. Construction of the plant is well underway with production of 6% spodumene concentrate from each of the three discrete trains expected to commence in October 2018, December 2018 and March 2019 respectively.
Once completed, the spodumene concentrate plant at Wodgina will consist of:
• A three-stage crushing circuit – primary crushing, secondary crushing, high-pressure grinding rollers (HPGRs) with capacity of 10Mtpa;
• A modular wet processing plant – three parallel trains each producing 250ktpa of spodumene;
• Ball milling, de-sliming and iron removal stages;
• A conventional spodumene flotation circuit;
• Filtration of the spodumene concentrate to <10% moisture for transport to Port Hedland for shipping; and
• The production of wet and dry tailings, minimising the environmental impact of water requirements. To provide for flexibility and seamless expansion, the crushing plant has been designed with additional capacity and MRL has designed the spodumene concentrate plant and site layout to allow for a fourth, 250Ktpa train to be added if required in the future.