Altura Mining’s Pilgangoora project began producing lithium (spodumene concentrate) in July this year, but already the West Australian miner is making plans to double its production at the new facility.
The project was officially opened this week by Managing Director James Brown and Mines Minister Bill Johnston. The grand opening celebrated an efficient project delivery schedule of only 18 months, a target that many in the industry thought was unachievable. Altura’s produced spodumene concentrate is sent to China for further processing with the company’s major Chinese customers signing agreements to purchase 200 000 tonnes per annum of spodumene concentrate each year until 2022.
Some experts have criticized Altura’s decision to export the valuable mineral instead of processing it further in Australia in a bid to support the state governments “lithium valley” vision. Leading lithium producers such as Tianqi Lithium are already constructing lithium processing plants in the Kwinana industrial area to process hard rock spodumene concentrate into the battery grade lithium hydroxide.
Despite its critics, Altura says it has employed about 1000 people at Pilgangoora since construction began and the mine will create 130 operational jobs. Mr Brown says the company is expecting to make the final investment decision to double Pilgangoora’s capacity to 440,000tpa in the coming months.