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Lithium mining firms expand exploration efforts

05 Feb 2018 16:11 GMT
Lithium mining firms expand exploration efforts

London, 5 February (Argus) — Canada-based Argentina Lithium will start drilling work at its Incahusi project in Catamarca, Argentina, as mining companies around the globe expand exploration activity to capitalise on expected demand for the battery metal.

Some companies have focused their efforts close to existing production sites, such as spodumene deposits in western Australia or lithium-brine salars in South America's Lithium Triangle.

Canadian explorer LSC Lithium recently announced a resource estimate of 1.3mn t of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) at its Pozuelos project, also within the Lithium Triangle.

In Australia, Adelaide-based Core Exploration has announced that it will follow up high-grade mineralisations at its Bynoe project in the Northern Territory with further drilling work. Liontown Resources will progress its Kathleen Valley project in Western Australia after recording lithium gradings of up to 2pc lithium oxide (Li2O) on site.

But some companies have chosen to focus their efforts in less frequently explored areas. European Lithium has expanded drilling work at its Wolfsberg lithium project in Austria, with a pre-feasibility study for the site expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2018. Wolfsberg has a measured and indicated mineral resource of 6.3mn t grading at 1.17pc Li2O.

In North Carolina in the US, Piedmont Lithium has increased its mining rights by expanding the size of the project by 188 acres to a total of 1,092 acres.

In Africa, South African-based Prospect Resources expects to start construction at its Arcadia lithium-tantalum project in Zimbabwe by mid-2018. Output is expected to begin in late 2019. This comes as Premier African Minerals has announced further drilling work at its Zulu project, also in Zimbabwe, after early results increased the inferred mineral resource to 20.1mn t at a grading of 1.06pc Li2O.

Rising demand for battery materials from Chinese electric vehicle and consumer electronics manufacturers has led to a global increase in the number of mining companies focused on sourcing lithium.

China's government plans to reduce subsidies for short-range electric vehicles by 20pc every year until 2019, and then remove them entirely by the end of 2020. Government financial support will then be switched to longer-range vehicles. But this increase in demand is expected to coincide with increased lithium supply after production comes on line in Western Australia and ramps up in South America.