With a sharpened drill bit at the San Jose project, Plymouth Minerals plans to pencil up improved economics for its giant lithium project that already boasts a lovely set of numbers. A small drilling campaign about to kick off is expected to firm up fundamentals for the project’s feasibility study and aims to deliver improved pit designs and lower stripping ratios for an emerging lithium supply line direct into the heart of Europe’s ever-expanding battery industry.
ASX-listed emerging lithium player Plymouth Minerals said this week that a relatively small drilling campaign of 1,500m at its San Jose project in Spain would provide necessary geotechnical and metallurgical data required to produce a feasibility study, which the company aims to complete within this calendar year.
PLymouth said the drilling campaign has been planned to confirm the final pit design which was expected to reduce stripping ratios and deliver improved operating costs.
In the ASX update management said ‘The current, relatively shallow overall pit slope as used in the scoping study is 36˚. The rock in and around the proposed pit is very fresh with minimal, if any weathering.’
‘It is expected that the additional geotechnical information will allow the final wall angles to be steepened. This would result in less waste produced with a lower strip ratio and a smaller footprint for the mining project, resulting in a positive impact on the project economics through lower operating costs and a lower environmental impact.’
The San Jose project is strategically located to supply lithium carbonate to the burgeoning battery industry in the heartland of industrial Europe.
Economic studies on the project to-date have delivered some compelling financial metrics. Plymouth is fully-funded to complete the feasibility study this year and to increase its 50% stake in the project to 75%, leaving project partner Valoriza Mineria S.L with 25% as part of a farm in agreement.
A scoping study in the fourth quarter of last year pointed to an open pit mining operation with the bonus of a battery-grade lithium processing facility being located on site - made possible by a gas pipeline running parallel to the project just a kilometre away.
A bulk sample of mineralised material dispatched to China for testing in December has been received by Shandong Ruifu, a major Chinese lithium producer. The bulk sample will be eventually processed into battery grade chemicals in China as part of a beneficiation optimisation study aimed at increasing the plant’s feed grade with a view to further reducing capex and opex costings.
Managing Director Adrian Byass said, “We are driving forward on the feasibility study and intend to complete it by October and have started the required confirmation/bankable project work early. This drilling and beneficiation work reflects the multiple workstreams currently underway as our team strives to deliver the study as fast as possible.”
The scoping study returned a favourable verdict for San Jose which is quite possibly a world-class lithium “mica” deposit that could be capable of delivering annual operating surpluses of more than AUD$90m.
The scoping study was based on a long initial mine life of 24 years, producing an average of 12,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate per annum. The estimated capex was US$273 million, with average C1 costs of less than US$5,000 per tonne of lithium carbonate, ranking it well down the cost curve of global producers.