Australian lithium miner gives go-ahead for on-site processing plant


Lithium miner Pilbara Minerals and Calix have announced a final investment decision (FID) on a $105 million (USD 68.6 million) mid-stream demonstration plant to be built at the Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum mining operation in Western Australia (WA), about 120 kilometres southwest of Port Hedland.

Perth-headquartered Pilbara Minerals and Sydney-based science company Calix said the processing plant will enable greater value extraction from hard-rock lithium assets by allowing spodumene producers to better utilise mineral resources and move down the battery materials value chain by producing a higher-value intermediate product on-site.

Pilbara Minerals Chief Executive Officer Dale Henderson said the initiative has the potential to be a game changer for the industry, paving the way for more value to be captured onshore at the resource.

“The mid-stream strategy has potential to materially improve the battery materials supply chain for lithium through reduction in carbon energy intensity, reduction in transport volumes and creating more value at the mine site,” he said.

“It has the potential to be a game changer compared to the traditional spodumene to chemicals processing route.”

The joint venture project will utilise Calix’s patented electric calciner technology to produce a low carbon, value-added lithium phosphate product containing 18% lithium, up from 5% to 6% contained lithium in spodumene. Lithium phosphate can be used in lithium iron phosphate batteries as well as in nickel cathode batteries.

Pilbara said the technology, if powered by renewable energy, can cut carbon emissions intensity by more than 80% in one of the most high-energy steps of the lithium battery materials production process.

The plant is designed for a 3,000 tonnes per year production of concentrated lithium phosphate salt, from a 27,000 tonnes per year spodumene concentrate feedstock. First lithium salt production is targeted for the June quarter of 2025, with the project to ramp up to steady state production in the March quarter of 2026.

The estimated construction cost of $104.9 million will be partially funded with a $20 million grant from the Australian government, with Pilbara Minerals funding $67.4 million of the remaining budgeted construction expenditure, while Calix will pay the remaining A$17.5 million.

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