AUSTRALIAN Stock Exchange-listed Prospect Resources has officially broken ground at the Arcadia lithium project, marking the beginning of real lithium extraction in Zimbabwe by the miner.
The Arcadia lithium project located 38km east of Harare, Zimbabwe, and is considered to be one of the world’s biggest hard rock lithium resources. The mine lies in the high veld near the Arcturus gold mine. The deposit is made up of Winston, Takashi, Green Mamba, Bing, Tourit, and the Oribi Li-Be claims, which were operated before the early 1970s.
Prospect executive chairperson Hugh Warner on Monday said that the company was working to secure project financing from international investors and lenders.
“As Prospect reaches out to the international investment community to finance Arcadia, we are also working closely with the government of Zimbabwe to provide confidence of fiscal stability to Prospect, our investors and indeed the people of Zimbabwe,” said Warner.
Prospect Resources fully owns the lithium project, which is estimated to produce an average of 75,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of spodumene and 155,000tpa of petalite concentrates during its 20-year mine life.
The pre-feasibility study (PFS) of the project was completed in June 2017,.
The Zimbabwe Government granted Arcadia with ‘National Project’ status in October 2017 for a period of five years. It also selected it as a priority project under its Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) in January 2018. The RRI is aimed at improving ease of doing business in the country and reducing complex administrative procedures for development of projects.
The project area extends over 14km² and comprises historical lithium and beryl workings within an existing agricultural area partially surrounded by hills.
The Zimbabwean lithium project is being developed in two phases, with the first phase involving the construction of the mine and the concentrator. The second phase will involve expansion of the mine site.
Conventional open-pit mining will be applied to the lithium project. Recovered ore will be processed at the 1.2Mtpa Arcadia processing plant, which will use conventional dense media separation (DMS) and froth flotation technology, ideal for a pegmatite orebody.
The ore will be trucked to the crushing station, where it will be either dumped to the primary crusher or stockpiled. It will be crushed in a three-stage closed circuit and forwarded to the DMS for separating the rougher petalite and spodumene.
The rejects will be milled and passed to the flotation circuit to extract fine-grained petalite and spodumene. High-intensity gravity separation will be implemented to recover tantalum-bearing minerals.
The spodumene and petalite concentrates produced at the plant will be suitable for lithium carbonate conversion plants, which supply feed-stock to the lithium battery manufacturers, as well as the glass/ceramics markets.
Prospect Resources commissioned a lithium carbonate pilot plant in February 2018 to add further value to the lithia products produced from the Arcadia mine.
The plant is anticipated to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate from petalite ore. It is expected to ramp up to full production of 100kg a month in the second quarter of 2018.
Prospect Resources entered a conditional placement and off-take agreement with Sinomine Resource Exploration (Sinomine) in November 2017 for the off-take of spodumene and petalite concentrates produced at Arcadia.
Sinomine will invest A$10m ($7.67m) in Prospect Resources under share placement at A$0.05 a share, while Prospect will sell 390,000t of spodumene concentrate (grading 6% Li2O) and 1.10Mt of petalite concentrate (grading 4% Li2O) over a seven-year period, as part of the agreement.
The agreement also entitles Prospect to construct a lithium carbonate plant and divert half of the petalite concentrate produced at Arcadia to the facility for producing and supplying lithium carbonate to Sinomine.
The parties also agreed to a facility agreement wherein Sinomine will fully finance the construction of the mine and infrastructure on a build and transfer basis.
Infrastructure facilities at Arcadia project
The mine can be accessed from Harare either from the main A2 Harare to Mozambique highway or the main A3 Harare to Mutare highway.
The lithium project is located within 3km from the 33kVA national power grid and has groundwater and surface water facilities.
BioMetallurgical Zimbabwe (BMZ) prepared the PFS for the Arcadia project, while Hatch was engaged to prepare an additional PFS.
Digital Mining Services, The MSA Group, McDhui Mining Services, Practara, FT Geolabs, Nagrom, Blonton Management Consultants, Envirosmart Consultancy, LogiProc, and Consulmet were also involved in the preparation of the PFS.
As agreed with Sinomine, Prospect Resources will engage Beijing General Research Institute of Mining & Metallurgy (BGRIMM) for drafting the definitive feasibility study (DFS) report for the project.