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Altura gives green light for DFS at its flagship lithium project

Published by
Global Mining Review,

Altura Mining Ltd has approved the immediate start of a definitive feasibility study (DFS) on potentially doubling the capacity of its flagship Altura lithium project to 440 000 tpy.

The study is expected to be completed in April 2018 and will leverage much of the design and other work completed last year for the DFS on the Stage 1 Altura lithium project at Pilgangoora in Western Australia, which remains on track for commissioning in 1Q18.

An in-house scoping study team examined a number of options to increase output from the initial Stage 1 nameplate output of 220 000 tpy of 6% grade lithium oxide, and took into account the knowledge of capital costs and procurement order lead times gained from the current construction of the Altura lithium project.

Using key criteria of net present value, anticipated time to market and minimising disruption to the current Stage 1 construction the scoping study team concluded that doubling production using a basic plant duplication model is the best option to maximise shareholder value and is expected to place Altura in a strong operational and commercial position.

First production from the duplicated plant is expected to be achieved within 17 months after an investment decision, however by using the design and majority of parameters from the existing project, the timeframe could be brought forward with early ordering of long lead-time items, such as ball mills and high pressure grinding rolls (HPGR).

The scoping study was based on the recently-revised Altura lithium mineral resource estimate of 44 million t at 1% Li2O and 441 000 t of contained Li2O and the revised ore reserve estimate of 34.2 million t at 1.04% Li2O and 357 000 t of contained Li2O.

Further mine resource extension drilling is planned for the 2018 field season, which is aimed at proving up additional resources immediately to the south of the current main pit and providing additional mine life from the current mining tenement.

The scoping study showed the existing mining fleet supplied by Altura’s mining partner NRW Civil and Mining could be utilised by introducing a night shift and 24-hour operation compared to the existing day shift roster, while mine life would remain at greater than 10 years based on the current JORC ore reserve estimate.

Only minor modifications to existing infrastructure will be required with the camp and water bores considered to have suitable capacity, while the power plant could be augmented with bigger generators. There is not expected to be any interruptions to the Stage 1 plant operations during the Stage 2 duplication construction process.

Altura Managing Director James Brown said the scoping study was a positive development and the company would work as quickly as possible to complete the DFS and lock in an investment decision.

He said: “Now is the right time to be considering such an expansion. We continue to see strength in the lithium market and positive demand signals from offtakers. Using existing designs and other parameters this effective duplication should be both relatively straightforward and result in no disruption from our Stage 1 production, which is still on track for first commissioning in Q1 and first sales in Q2 of next year.”

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