ASX-listed mining company Arizona Lithium has started construction at its Prairie lithium project in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Prairie is one of the company’s two large lithium development projects in North America.

The other project is the Big Sandy lithium project, which is situated on Interstate I93 between Phoenix, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada, in the US.

Arizona Lithium is currently building the first commercial pad at the project. Construction has now been completed on the area where wells for the first direct lithium extraction (DLE) facility will be located.

There has been ground preparation for first production and disposal wells, which are expected to be drilled in the first half of 2024.

Based on the upcoming preliminary feasibility study (PFS), the well pad will aim to produce lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) at nearly 2,000 tonnes per annum (tpa).

As the well has now been built, the company will quickly move from pilot operations to commercialisation of the first facility through the drilling of wells.

Arizona Lithium has also submitted applications to license the initial two wells for this pad.

With the DLE pilot plant, the company expects to obtain the final parameters required to design, permit and build the first LCE facility.

It is moving forward with the project so that the lithium extraction technology can be applied at a commercial scale as quickly as possible.

The PFS, which is expected to be released by the end of this year, will include a scope for economics and a technical overview of the project.

Information obtained from both the pilot project and the PFS will be used to finalise its application to license the first commercial DLE facility.

Arizona Lithium managing director Paul Lloyd said: “The ability to receive permits to construct the pad highlights the expediency of the responsible and efficient Saskatchewan regulatory framework, which is built on years of oil and mining development.

“There is abundant infrastructure near this site, as this is a very active industrial region for agriculture, mining and oil. This ability to get things done is a prime example of why Saskatchewan is consistently named a top-ranked jurisdiction for mining investment, and why we believe our project in Saskatchewan will be one of the first to market in North America.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government of Saskatchewan on finalising the licence and permits for our wells and lithium extraction operations over the coming months, as we continue to target 2025 for initial production.”

Covering 1,423.2km², or 351,709 acres, the Prairie project has 72 subsurface mineral permits. It is located in south-east Saskatchewan near the US border.

The total resource at the Prairie project had recently been revised to 5.7 million tonnes of LCE from 4.1 million tonnes, a 39% increase.