Lithium Americas Corp. [LAC-TSX, NYSE] on Friday Mar 20 said construction activities at its Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project in Jujuy, Argentina has been temporarily suspended. The company said the decision was taken in accordance with government mandated restrictions in response to COVID-19.
“On March 19, 2020, the government of Argentina enacted the Urgency Decree (DNU) No. 297/20 ordering, among other provisions, a national mandatory quarantine effective from March 20, 2020, until March 31, 2020,” Lithium Americas said in a press release.
“Accordingly, development work at Cauchari-Olaroz will be suspended immediately and the project will be placed on care and maintenance,” it said. “COVID-19 medical safety procedures have been implemented at site and at the Jujuy office, and no employees are currently identified as infected with the COVID-19 virus.”
The share price declined on the news, falling 9.4% or 34 cents to $3.24. The shares are currently trading in a 52-week range of $2.91 and $8.
Lithium Americas and Chinese partner Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd. have been working to advance the Cauchari-Olaroz Project with target production of 40,000 tonnes per annum of battery-quality carbonate development plan. The Cauchari-Olaroz Project is located in the heart of the Puna Plateau, an area where over 80% of the world’s lithium brine reserves are located. This area is also known as the “Lithium Triangle.”
“Construction is approximately 36% complete, as of the end of February, 2020, and continues to advance on budget,” the company said recently
“The development plan contemplates that construction will be substantially mechanically complete by the end of 2020,” the company said.
However, Lithium Americas recently said it is aware that there will be delays of up to 90 days in the delivery time for some of these items as a result of the recent Covid-19 outbreak. On Friday the company said it has decided to put the emphasis on safety in support of government measures. “Our focus is on the safety and health of our employees, contractors and local communities,” said Lithium Americas President and CEO Jon Evans.
“We are in the process of safely demobilizing the over 1,000-person construction work force in support of the government of Argentina’s measures to control the spread of COVID-19.
Lithium Americas said it expects to be able to resume construction whenever the suspension is lifted. Meanwhile, the suspension of construction may impact the company’s previous estimate for completion by early 2021, it said.
Neo Lithium Corp. [NLC-TSXV, NTTHF-OTC] says it is able to produce battery grade lithium at a pilot plant using concentrated brine from its wholly-owned Tres Quebradas lithium project (3Q) in Catamarca Province, Argentina.
The 3Q Project in Catamarca Argentina (the largest lithium producer in Argentina), covers 162 square kilometres and is ranked as one of the highest-grade deposits in the world, and is expected to emerge as a low cost producer.
Lithium is a soft white metal that is used in the production of heat-resistant glass and ceramics, lithium grease lubricants, iron, steel and aluminum well as lithium-ion batteries, which are used in small electronic devices, including smart phones and laptops, and electric vehicles.
Brines (in salt ponds) and spodumene (hard rock) represent the two main sources of commercial lithium production. The largest known deposits are found in South America.
Neo Lithium recently completed a preliminary economic assessment of the 3Q Project that the company says indicates robust economics for a 35,000 tonne-per-year lithium carbonate mine.
In a March 11, 2020 press release, Neo said the brine was extracted from the high-grade zone located in the northern zone of the 3Q project and then evaporated in the company’ industrial scale ponds at the same location under similar conditions as production scale.
The company said no chemical reagents were added to the brine other than minor amounts of hydrochloric acid for PH control at the final stage of evaporation. The concentrated brine was then transported by truck to a pilot plant at Fiabala, which is located 160 kilometres from the 3Q Project.
Two different processes were tested to produce battery grade lithium carbonate at the pilot plant.
The first was described in a technical report filed on May 8, 2019, using solvent extraction phase (SX-B) for Boron removal, a sulfation phase for calcium removal using Sodium Sulfate and a liming and carbonation phase to remove magnesium and any remaining calcium. The lithium carbonate process is then completed with three stages of soda ash carbonation, washing and drying.
The result of the process described above produced lithium carbonate with a purity of 99.535%.
The company also tested a second process to produce battery grade lithium carbonate by changing the sulfation phase for calcium removal by an acidification phase with Sodium Hydroxide. The remainder of the lithium carbonate process is then completed in a similar way to the first process.
The results of the second phase produced lithium carbonate with a purity of 99.599%, which is higher than the first process.
Neo said the final economic results of the announced optimization obtained during the second process to produce battery grade lithium carbonate can only be confirmed once the company finalizes its definitive feasibility study. “Management believes that the improved second process can have significant advantages when compared to the first process,” Neo said.
On Friday, Neo Lithium shares advanced 1.8% or $0.01 to 55 cents. The shares are currently trading in a 52-week range of 39 cents and $1.13.
Lithium Americas Corp. [LAC-TSX, NYSE] said Friday it posted a profit of US$51.9 million in 2019, but added that it is anticipating a delay in the construction of its Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project in Jujuy, Argentina.
Lithium America shares advanced on the news, rising 7.1% or 30 cents to $4.52. The shares are currently trading in a 52-week range of $3.60 and $8.00.
Lithium Americas and Chinese partner Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd. are working to advance the Cauchari-Olaroz project in Argentina with target production of 40,000 tonnes per annum of battery-quality carbonate development plan. The Cauchari-Olaroz project is located in the heart of the Puna Plateau, an area where over 80% of the world’s lithium brine reserves are located. This area is also known as the “Lithium Triangle.”
“Construction is approximately 36% complete, as of the end of February, 2020, and continues to advance on budget,’’ the company said in a press release Friday that contained its financial and operating results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2019.
“The development plan contemplates that construction will be substantially mechanically complete by the end of 2020,” the company said. However, it said several major pieces of equipment for the chemical plant are being fabricated in China and some suppliers have sub-vendors fabricating in China.
“The company has become aware that there will be delays of up to 90 days in the delivery time for some of these items as a result of the recent Covid-19 outbreak,’’ Lithium Americas said. “Accordingly, the company anticipates that there will be a delay in achieving substantial completion of construction until early 2020,” it said.
Lithium Americas said Ganfeng recently agreed to subscribe for new shares of Cauchari-Olaroz for $16 million in cash, thereby increasing its stake in the Cauchari-Olaroz from 50% to 51%. The other 49% is held by Lithium Americas.
In addition, Lithium Americas will receive $40 million in cash from the proceeds of non-interest-bearing loans from Ganfeng.
Aside from Cauchari-Olaroz, Lithium Americas is also focused on the Thacker Pass project in Nevada.
Thackers Pass is a pre-feasibility-stage lithium project located in Humbolt County, northern Nevada. The project is situated at the southern end of the McDermitt Caldera, approximately 100 kilometres north of Winnemucca.
In 2018, Lithium Americas completed a pre-feasibility study (PFS) on a two-phase project with a production capacity designed to reach 60,000 tonnes annually of battery-grade lithium carbonate (Li2C03) and 46-year mine life.
The PFS envisages initial phase one production capacity of 30,000 tonnes annually of battery grade lithium carbonate, commencing in 2022 and increasing in phase two to 60,000 tonnes annually by 2026.
The project will be developed as an open-pit mining operation using conventional continuous mining equipment.
On Friday, the company said a definitive feasibility study is being completed with an initial targeted production capacity of 20,000 tonnes annually of lithium hydroxide and approximately 2,000 tonnes annually of lithium carbonate. The study is on track to be completed by mid-2020, the company said.
Meanwhile, the company is exploring financing options, including the possibility of a joint venture partner at Thacker Pass.