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Record spodumene production at buoyant prices at Greenbushes is now the clear mainstay for IGO Ltd while it reshapes its nickel assets following the massive write-down of assets acquired in the Western Areas takeover.
Acting chief executive Matt Dusci told Diggers & Dealers that joint ventures on the Greenbushes lithium mine with the Kwinana lithium hydroxide refinery, Tianqi and Albermarle provided the backbone for IGO’s $2.003 billion revenue before income tax result last fiscal year.
He said the company was uniquely positioned in the battery supply chain and was also integrated both upstream and downstream.
Focus at Greenbushes is on additional production, the latest being new capacity to bring on a further chemical grade plant capacity of 500,000t-550,000t to be online by mid-2025 and a decision due on another upgrade for a similar additional tonnage increase by 2027. This would see Greenbushes then producing between 2.2 mt-2.5 Mtpa of spodumene.
Dusci said on top of increasing capacity, mine production was to be ramped up and a mining contractor had been engaged for planned underground mining.
Kwinana has been ramping up and is now at 20% of nameplate capacity, with a target of 50% by year end. The first train has been modified and the second expected to be completed in early 2024. Each processing train is capable of 24,000 t of liquid hydroxide.
Dusci said it was a story of exceptional growth, and the company was well positioned in the supply chain for the battery minerals sector.
The Nova nickel-copper mine had a strong finish in the June quarter delivering just below guidance for FY23 of 22,915t of nickel at cash cost of $3.54/lb, giving a $518m free cash flow.
The smaller Forrestania project produced about $69m cash flow and just short of 12,000t of contained nickel at a cash cost of $9.65/lb for the year.
Cosmos’ development of a deep new mine at a former high-grade nickel project and at this stage production facilities were 85% complete. The spend last fiscal year on Cosmos was $338 M, and a comprehensive review of this asset should be completed in the December quarter.
Forrestania and Cosmos were assets of Western Areas and IGO recently had to reveal a significant pre-tax impairment on these assets of between $800 M-$980 M which was “disappointing” – a result of challenges to capital and operating costs, mining conditions and scheduling.
IGO’s battery metals link with Andrew Forrest’s Wyloo Metals will, according to Dusci, be at low end of the cost curve for nickel metal in batteries. This venture has been supported by the WA Government with land at Kwinana. The next stage is bringing in a partner to then complete a study by mid-2024.
This alliance aims to convert nickel sulphide concentrates into cathode precursor for the battery industry. Pilot test work has shown that the flowsheet for the propriety IGO Process has potential.
IGO has a large portfolio of advanced and grass roots exploration assets for nickel, copper and lithium, including lithium prospects at Forrestania. Most are in WA but the 70% owned Lake Mackay and 100% owned Raptor and Irindina prospects are in the Northern Territory.