Pilbara Minerals moves towards expansion after Pilgangoora opening

Western Australia's Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston is joined by Federal Minister for Environment Melissa Price, the Njamal People, project and offtake partners and employees. Image: Pilbara Minerals

Pilbara Minerals, in progressing its Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project to a stage two expansion, has officially opened the operation.

Pilgangoora, 120 kilometres south of Port Hedland in Western Australia, plans to grow spodumene concentrate production from 330,000 tonnes per year to over 800,000t/y with stage two.

The official opening last Friday comes four years since Pilbara Minerals’ first drill hole. The Pilgangoora project has gone through an intense program of resource drilling, feasibility studies, approvals, financing and construction of the operation.

Pilgangoora employed more than 800 people during construction and is now running an operational workforce of around 200 people. It is Western Australia’s second biggest lithium mine.

Chief executive Ken Brinsden said, “The significant upfront investment we made in building the resource base and in designing and engineering all aspects of the Pilgangoora project to the highest possible standards has allowed us to complete the construction phase and move seamlessly into commissioning and ramp-up with remarkably few delays or hiccups for a project of this scale and complexity.

“I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners, the Njamal People, whose support has been invaluable in moving the Pilgangoora project through development and into production.”

Pilgangoora produced first concentrates in June this year and achieved first shipment of product shortly after in October.

Its expansion is underpinned by offtake agreements with Chinese lithium producer Ganfeng Lithium, South Korean steelmaker POSCO and Chinese automobile manufacturer Great Wall Motor Company.

Brinsden credited the project’s success to the “significant investment” of government-owned Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

“The Pilgangoora project will provide vital lithium raw materials for the development of emerging clean energy technologies to help underpin the increasing transition to renewable energy sources, and we are very grateful for their ongoing support,” Brinsden said.

The Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston, who officially opened the project, said, “We have an abundance of lithium and other battery minerals, and the McGowan Government is committed to making the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

“I look forward to sharing our future battery industry strategy in the coming months, which will drive the development of the battery materials industry, contribute to the state’s economic diversification and help create jobs.”