Piedmont Lithium (Nasdaq: PLL; ASX: PLL) and Sayona Mining (ASX: SYA) announced on Thursday that commercial spodumene concentrate production has restarted at their jointly owned North American Lithium (NAL) project in Quebec.
The $US80 million restart was completed on time and budget, and would be only major source of new spodumene production expected in North America in the next two years, says Sayona, which holds a majority 75% interest in the project.
The Australia-based lithium miner is targeting 226,000 tonnes per year of annual production, with first commercial shipments expected in July 2023. Four shipments totalling up to 120,000 tonnes are expected from NAL by year-end, it adds.
These shipments, according to Sayona, are expected to supply key battery and electric vehicle manufacturers including LG Chem and Tesla.
“Since announcing our restart intentions in 2021, our project team has maintained a forward-looking focus to improve lithium capture, achieve more consistent runtimes, and streamline operating costs from the past-producing operation," Sayona’s managing director Brett Lynch commented in a news release.
Piedmont CEO Keith Phillips added: "This marks an exciting milestone not only for Piedmont Lithium and Sayona Mining, but the North American market for which we are working to supply critical lithium resources. NAL is positioned to be a key contributor to the electric vehicle and battery supply chains as demand for lithium continues to rapidly expand along with the electrification economies in both Canada and the US.”
The NAL project - formerly known as the Québec lithium mine - was acquired by the companies' Sayona Quebec joint venture in August 2021 after its previous owner had suspended production and subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection.
In June 2022, the companies obtained formal approval for the restart of mining operations. This includes the development of a spodumene conversion facility at NAL to produce lithium hydroxide or carbonate, as per an agreement with the Québec government to develop a local downstream processing capability in proximity to the North American battery market.
An earlier pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the project initially estimated a life of mine (LOM) of 27 years with average annual spodumene concentrate production of 163,000 tonnes. Currently, the project contains an estimated mineral resource of 101.9 million tonnes at 1.06% Li2O, for 1.1 million tonnes of contained Li2O in all categories.
The project lies 60 km north of the city of Val d’Or, and in proximity to Sayona’s Authier lithium project. Together, they form a key part of the company's Abitibi hub in Quebec. The plan is to eventually combine ore produced from Authier with those from NAL to facilitate a significant improvement in plant performance and economics, Sayona says.