Pilbara Minerals improves recoveries amid soft lithium market

The Pilgangoora operation. Image: Pilbara Minerals

Pilbara Minerals has increased its lithium recovery range increase to 63–67 per cent during the December quarter, at the Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project in Western Australia.

This is thanks to plant improvement works that occurred during the quarter as the company continued to develop the mine.

Pilbara Minerals also experienced its highest ever quarterly tantalite concentrate sales, selling a total of 78,156 pounds compared with the September quarterly sale of 10,765 pounds.

This was supported by Pilgangoora’s quarterly production of 14,711 dry metric tonnes of spodumene concentrate in the December period, as well as product stocks from previous quarters.

Pilbara Minerals managing director and chief executive Ken Brinsden said the plant improvement works were an “outstanding achievement” for the company.

“These works delivered a significant uplift in lithium recoveries during production activities, with an average sustained lithium recovery of 67 per cent realised and a lithium recovery range of 63 to 73 per cent achieved,” Brinsden said.

“These recovery results are materially higher than that achieved to date and will be a key contributor to reducing long-term operating costs and achieving our target level of $US320-$US350 ($477-$522) per dry metric tonne once nameplate capacity is achieved.”

While the lithium market has remained challenging, Brinsden is confident Pilbara Minerals is well-positioned to capitalise on the market turnaround when it occurs.

“The market has continued to be challenging as the industry readjusts to the new subsidy regime in China that favours emerging high nickel cathode batteries,” he said.

“However, we must not lose sight of the long term competitive advantage this will provide hard-rock lithium producers such as Pilbara Minerals.”

Pilbara Minerals continued undertaking technical studies to revise stage two of its five million tonnes a year expansion throughout the December quarter, with results expected to be released during the March period.

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