A key economic study has supported the development of a new Australian-backed US$599 million lithium and boron mining and processing operation in Nevada, United States.
|Looking east over Rhyolite Ridge South Basin. Image source: ©Global Geoscience|
The project – on which first construction could commence as early as the September quarter next year – would enable its Australian owner, lithium-boron developer, Global Geoscience to become a major player in the US and Asian markets for the high demand, critical metals commodities.
Among the key findings are that Rhyolite Ridge could deliver its anticipated average output of 20,200tpa of battery-grade lithium carbonate and 173,000tpa of boric acid, at a cost of US$1,796/tonne of lithium carbonate (with boric acid credit).
This would make the dual revenue project a significant low-cost lithium producer in the United States and globally and the largest lithium producer in the United States.
In addition, while initial permitting plans are based around a starter pit with a seven-year mine life, the PFS envisages Rhyolite Ridge operating for more 30 years.
Rhyolite Ridge will be a low risk, conventional open-pit mining operation but will have its own sulphuric plant on site to produce acid, steam and power processing requirements but also generating excess power for sale back into the Nevada electricity grid.
As a result of the PFS outcomes, Global Geoscience say it expects to move immediately to the appointment of an engineering firm to finalise the project’s Definitive Feasibility Study.
The robust results are also of a calibre the Company says to now allow it to escalate potential customer offtake and project financing negotiations.
Global Geoscience’s Managing Director, Mr Bernard Rowe, says with the PFS now completed and about A$75 million cash in bank, the Company is well funded through to a Final Investment Decision (FID).
“Importantly for our financing negotiations, Rhyolite Ridge is strategically located to major US and Asian markets at a time of limited alternative supply in the US of both lithium and boron - critical materials necessary for urbanisation and energy efficiency,” Mr Rowe says.
“However, we can now go into the market with PFS results that affirm the Project’s scale, globally competitive forecast cash operating costs, robust operating margins, long life and exceptional economic returns – highlighting its capacity to take full advantage of the current and future expected demand for lithium and boron raw materials over the coming decades.
“The boron co-product will generate sufficient revenue to cover nearly all operating costs and thereby enable Rhyolite Ridge to be the lowest cost producer of lithium in the world.”
To expedite the Company’s ‘time to market’ strategy, the operation and associated facilities have been constrained to a maximum surface disturbance of 640 acres or 1 square mile. This allows the project to be considered for permitting under an Environmental Approval Plan (EA).
Mr Rowe says the company was hopeful of awarding major contracts for the acid plant in Q2 calendar 2019 to commence site construction the following quarter. First ore would be processed about two years later.
The PFS includes processing only high-grade, lithium-boron portion of the Indicated Resource, which totals 104.1 million tonnes at 0.9 per cent lithium carbonate and 7.2 per cent boric acid.
Drilling is currently in progress to extend the potential mineable inventory.