Pilbara Minerals feeds first ore to hungry lithium plant


The Pilgangoora lithium operation.

Pilbara Minerals has begun commissioning its upgraded Ngungaju plant at the Pilgangoora lithium operation in Western Australia, on its way to becoming a million-tonne producer.

The plant has been under care and maintenance for the entirety of Pilbara Minerals’ ownership, after it completed the acquisition of Pilgangoora from Altura Lithium Operations in early 2021.

The staged restart aims to make Pilgangoora a producer of 580,000 dry metric tonne per annum operation when at full capacity. Further planned upgrades to the operation’s Pilgan plant will then target one million tonnes per annum.

Pilbara Minerals managing director and chief executive officer Ken Brinsden said the restart of Ngungaju was significant considering the current state of the Western Australia resources sector.

“The first step of the Ngungaju restart has been delivered in less than four months since the board approved a staged restart of Ngungaju, ahead of the guidance we gave to the market,” Brinsden said.

“This is a tremendous result, particularly considering the challenging environment in the WA resources sector for people, equipment and services.”

Ngungaju should reach annual production of 180,000 to 200,000 dry metric tonnes per annum of spodumene concentrate by mid-2022, while the Pilgan plant’s improvement works will add as much as 380,000 tonnes per annum.

Brinsden said the timing of these developments was well aligned with a growing lithium market.

“The board is very pleased with their achievements to date which stand-out for the strong technical work supporting the project, the quality of the build and the speed with which the entire project has been delivered,” he said.

“With market conditions remaining extremely buoyant and the spodumene concentrate market continuing to show signs of being extremely short of supply, the Ngungaju plant is expected to be capable of delivering uncommitted tonnes into the emerging spot market.”

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