| Piedmont Lithium still open to more spodumene opportunities|
28th September 2022
By: Esmarie Iannucci
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia
PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Lithium developer Piedmont is looking at opportunities to increase its resource and ore reserves as it works towards bringing its US assets into production.
The dual-listed company earlier this year earmarked a site in Tennessee for the development of a new 30 000 t/y lithium hydroxide operation, which is expected to start in 2025, and will convert spodumene concentrate sourced from Piedmont’s global project into lithium hydroxide to supply the US electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing industry.
The Tennessee lithium hydroxide plant will complement the company’s planned Carolina lithium operation, which will be a fully integrated project producing 242 000 t/y of spodumene concentrate and by- products, as well as 30 000 t/y of lithium hydroxide, with operations slated to start in 2026.
In terms of spodumene production, Piedmont holds a 25% interest in Sayona Quebec, which has three lithium projects in the region, including the North American Lithium (NAL) operation, where production is set to start in the first quarter of 2023.
An earlier prefeasibility study (PFS) estimated that the 1.5-million-tonne-a-year NAL operation could deliver 4.4-million tonnes of spodumene concentrate over a mine life of 27 years.
Concentrate from the NAL operations will feed into the planned Tennessee plant.
Additionally, Piedmont is also earning a 50% interest in the Ewoyaa lithium project, in Ghana, from ASX- and Aim-listed Atlantic Lithium.
A recently completed PFS estimated that Ewoyaa ill require a capital investment of $125-million to deliver the 255 000 t/y lithium spodumene operation, with a mine life of 12.5 years.
The study calculated a post-tax net present value of $1.33-billion and free cash flows of $2-billion from life-of-mine (LoM) revenues of $4.84-billion.
Piedmont executive VP and COO Patrick Brindle told Mining Weekly Online on Wednesday that the Ewoyaa project was strategically located to allow Piedmont to ship spodumene concentrate either through the US East Coast or the Gulf of Mexico, and to use the spodumene as feedstock for the Tennessee project.
“The conclusion of the PFS in terms of concentrate production, capital and operating costs was in line with our expectations as joint venture partner. We are very exited to be working on the next steps, which includes application for mining licence and scoping level environmental impact assessment submissions, followed by a definitive feasibility study next year, so we can put ourselves in a position to potentially make a final investment decision by the end of next year,” said Brindle.
Piedmont’s earn-in into the Ewoyaa project includes an offtake agreement for 50% of the yearly production at market prices, on a LoM basis.
First production from Ewoyaa is planned for the third quarter of 2024.
Brindle told Mining Weekly Online that the US government’s push to secure critical mineral supply, and the legislation used to enact this ambition, had slotted in perfectly with the company’s own operational strategy for the next three to five years, of establishing lithium conversion capacity.
“We see opportunities from the Inflation Reduction Act to enhance the economics of our projects, and we have seen strong interest from the federal government in both loan and grant programmes.
"Having been at this for about five years, I would say that the last number of months have seen quite a material shift in the position and attitude of the US governments for these critical minerals.”
Brindle noted that while Piedmont’s ambition was to be a North American manufacturer of lithium hydroxide in the medium to long term, the company continued to be open to opportunities to invest in resources to support its long-term manufacturing plans.