Modern Mining

ASX-listed Prospect Resources has announced that its Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) over the Arcadia lithium project in Zimbabwe has been completed. The company says the results of the PFS confirm and validate its objective of developing Arcadia to become a significant producer of high quality spodumene, petalite and tantalite concentrates in the near term.

Pre feasibility studyAn on-site briefing at Arcadia showing members of the Prospect team and some investors (photo: Prospect Resources).

The project is located approximately 38 km east of Harare and occupies an area of more than 9 km2 of granted mining rights and consists of several historical lithium and beryl workings within an existing agricultural area.

The PFS supports the declaration of a maiden probable ore reserve estimate of 15,8 Mt grading at 1,34 % Li2O and 125 ppm Ta2O5. Arcadia’s probable ore reserves form the basis of a standalone 1,2 Mt/a mining and processing operation over a 15-year Life of Mine (LoM). The PFS further examines a mine plan, which includes a pit inventory of probable ore reserves and inferred mineral resources within the pit outlines, giving a pit inventory of 23 Mt at 1,34 % Li2O and 124 ppm Ta2O5, a LoM of 20 years and an average strip ratio of 2,79 to 1.

According to the PFS, the project has a 39 % IRR and a pre-tax NPV10 of US$139 million. The estimated capex is US$52,5 million. It will generate LoM revenues of approximately US$2 billion from production of a variety of lithia and tantalite products targeting the battery (chemical) and glass/ceramics (technical) lithium markets along with traditional tantalite end consumers in the electronics markets.

Prospect is currently evaluating the establishment of a lithium carbonate and hydroxide chemical plant at Arcadia to produce high end specialty lithium chemical products, with a PFS due to be completed during Q3 2017.

Commenting on the PFS results, Prospect’s Chairman, Hugh Warner, said: “This result is a phenomenal outcome for Arcadia, our project team and importantly our shareholders. In the space of less than a year, we have developed Arcadia to a stage where we have defined a globally significant deposit containing highly sought-after lithium products in spodumene and petalite.

“We decided to extend the PFS period to ensure our extensive metallurgical test­work programmes were completed in order to properly support these aspects of the PFS. We are now confident that Arcadia will have the ability to produce battery grade lithium, glass and ceramic grade lithium and tantalite products to the market by late 2018.

“Following government environmental and financial approvals and coupled with the excellent results of this PFS, the development of Arcadia can now be fast tracked. This is undoubtedly supported by the very low start-up costs, which further places Prospect at an advantage to its peers. Prospect can now actively pursue and execute offtake agreements and pursue funding options to develop this quality asset.”

Prospect commissioned BioMetal­lurgical Zimbabwe (BMZ) to undertake the PFS on the project. The PFS represents the culmination of technical and financial inputs from the company’s in-house team and was supported by several independent consultants and contractors.

The findings of the PFS define a mining and processing operation producing 75 000 t/a spodumene and 155 000 t/a petalite concentrates destined for the battery (chemical) and glass/ceramics (technical) markets.

Run of Mine (ROM) material will be extracted via a single open-pit operation that will serve a process facility that will recover spodumene, petalite and tantalite concentrates as well as silica sand and mica as by-products. Lithia and tantalite concentrates will be bulk transported to Beira in Mozambique for onward shipping to downstream customers, whilst by-products will supply the domestic industrial markets in Zimbabwe.

Conventional open-pit mining is proposed for the delivery of 100 000 t/month or 1,2 Mt/a of ROM material to the comminution and processing facilities. In order to develop the pit design for the Arcadia deposit, an optimised pit shell was first prepared using Dassault System Surpac© software. The mining method is based on six nested sequential open pits (1a, 1b, 2, 3, 4 and 5). The final pit (5) will measure some 1,1 km by 750 m, with a maximum depth of 130 m on the final high-wall. The total surface area of the final pit 5 will be approximately 0,55 km2.

Mining operations will be conducted utilising a contracted fleet for key equipment with some ancillary vehicles being supplied by the company. Ore and waste will be handled by diesel hydraulic excavators and articulated dump trucks. Ore will be trucked to the crushing station where it will be directly dumped to the primary crusher, or stockpiled prior to front-end loader feeding. Waste material comprising meta basalt and some pegmatites will require blasting except for some of the very upper weathered rocks.

The concentrator plant will utilise conventional DMS and froth flotation technology. The processing route will include three-stage crushing, grinding, dense media separation, mica-flotation, spodumene flotation, petalite flotation, magnetic separation, concentrate dewatering and drying, and tailings filtering.

The plant will produce >6 % Li2O and >4,1 % Li2O concentrates suitable for lithium hydroxide and carbonate plants that supply feed-stock to the lithium battery manufacturers and the glass/ceramics markets. Tantalite concentrate (>25 % Ta2O5) will also be produced to serve the downstream electronics markets. Further metallurgical optimisation and enhancement to improve the metallurgical recoveries and concentrate grades is now underway.

Download the pdf.

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