Authier Lithium Project, Quebec, Canada

Val-d'Or, Quebec, Canada

The Authier Lithium project is located in one of the prime mining centres in northern Quebec, Canada, approximately 45km away from the city of Val-d'Or.

Australian mining company Sayona Mining acquired the project from Glen Eagle Resources for C$4m in July 2016.

The preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for the project was completed in January 2012. Following the acquisition, Sayona initiated the pre-feasibility study (PFS) and announced the results of the same in February 2017.

The PFS demonstrated the technical and financial possibility to develop an open-cut mining operation with a processing facility to produce the lithium concentrate.

The mine is expected to produce 10.2 million tonnes (Mt) of Li2O (lithium oxide) at a rate of 99,000 tonnes a year (t/y), over its estimated life of 13 years.

The development is estimated to require a capital investment of C$66m. Construction is scheduled to commence in early-2018, while commissioning is expected by the end of 2018.

Authier Lithium project geology and mineralisation

The geology of the mine comprises intrusive units of the La motte pluton to the north and preissac pluton to the south, while the centre contains volcano-sedimentary lithologies of the Malartic group.

The mineralisation is hosted in a spodumene-bearing pegmatite intrusion and is related to multiple pulses of spodumene-bearing quartzfeldspar pegmatite. Higher lithium grades are found in high concentrations of mid-to-coarse spodumene crystals in mid-to-coarse grained pegmatite facies.

Mineral reserves at the Canadian lithium mine

As of February 2017, the Authier Lithium project is estimated to contain total reserves of 10.2Mt grading 1.02% and containing 103,725t of Li2O. While the proven reserves are estimated at 4.9Mt containing 0.97% Li2O, the probable reserves are estimated at 5.3Mt containing 1.06% Li2O.

The mine will produce chemical-grade lithium concentrate, which is used to manufacture batteries, lubricants, aluminium smelting and pharmaceuticals.

Sayona Mining expects the lithium concentrate produced by the mine to find a good market since the demand for lithium-ion battery technology in the consumer electronics and electricity storage/distribution sectors is increasing.

Mining and processing at Authier Lithium project

The lithium mine will be developed using open-cut methods, including drill and blast, and conventional bulk mining. The mining fleet will include hydraulic excavators and dump trucks to deliver ore to a run-of-mine (ROM) stockpile. It will also include 46t rigid body dump trucks, a 125t excavator, and mixed ancillary fleet for load and haul operations.

A lithium processing plant, designed with a capacity to process 700,000t/y of ore feed and produce 5.75% Li2O concentrate, will be built at the project site.

It will use conventional flotation technology, which is suitable to process the pegmatite ore. The units/processes included in the plant design are a three-stage crushing unit, ball mill grinding unit, mica-flotation unit, spodumene flotation, magnetic separation process to reduce the iron content of the concentrate, concentrate dewatering and drying unit, and tailings filtering unit.

Infrastructure at the lithium mine

The project site is located 45km from Val d'Or and 20km from Amos, both of which are accessible through a national highway and high-quality rural road network located 5km east of the project.

Being a major mining centre, Val d'Or provides experienced workforce and other mining-related support.

Once fully-operational, the mining operations at the site are expected to require 7.2MW of power. An electricity grid located 5km east of the project site will supply low-cost hydroelectric power that will be sufficient to power the operations.

With an extensive network across the country, the Canada National Rail is located close to the project site. The nearest rail is located at Cadillac and will provide a connectivity to export shipping ports. It will also connect to the cities of Montreal and Quebec.

The Ontario Northland Railway and North American rail system will help to connect the western part of the country.

Contractors involved

The PFS for the project was compiled by SGS Canada and Bumigeme, while the PEA was completed by the latter alone.