The Northern Territory’s contributor to the global lithium market started by thinking small that saw it cash positive at June 30 to the tune of more than $152 million and also free of debt.
Chief executive of Core Lithium, Gareth Manderson, said the company’s Finniss project could be described as a minimal project, having a small starting resource, a small processing plant and small mining operation.
The company has shipped out two cargoes of lithium through “a commercial arrangement” and a third is being loaded at Darwin port under contract to major battery producer Ganfeng. There are offtake agreements with other major battery companies.
Manderson said it took Core less than six years to find its first lithium deposit in the Northern territory and in the last two years it broke ground at the Grants deposit, 88 km from Darwin, to making its first shipments this year. The first shipment of spodumene concentrate was 5,000 tonnes in April and the second of 13,000t went out early in July.
While the company operated a small-scale but healthy-grade mine to start with, it is growing its executive team and work force, and already has the BP33 target, with similar geological signatures to Grants, as the next mine.
“It’s time to start building the business,” said Manderson.
Core has already earmarked between $45 M-$50 M for early work on developing an underground mine at BP33. A revised study is underway and that will take in an increased mineral resource.
Total Finniss mineral resources have increased 62% to 30.6 Mt grading 1.31 lithium oxide.
Manderson said that by 2024 Core should have a strong understanding about the mineability of BP33.
There will be a broadening of exploration to other properties in the NT including the emerging Carlton prospect, where drilling is building up, and another north Finniss area called Hang Gong. Carlton now has a resource of 6.18 Mt at 1.38% lithium oxide and this has confirmed a down-plunge continuity of the spodumene-bearing pegmatite. It is only 2 km from the processing plant.
About 100 km south of the Finniss lease is Shoebridge, close to a road access to Darwin, while also to the south is the Barrow Creek and Anningie prospects near the Darwin rail link.
Pegmatites on the Finniss and Finniss River regions have been mined on a small scale in the past for tin and tantalite. More than three decades ago one adventurous junior company was bold enough to put the cart before the horse and begin mining for tantalite in the river area.
This stopped abruptly when the plant operating team evacuated after an angry crocodile got caught in a rotary trommel.