Lithium Americas has unveiled plans to fast-track the development of the Thacker Pass lithium project in Humboldt County, Nevada, US, after the results of a preliminary feasibility study (PFS) suggested the project could have positive economic consequences.

Based on the PFS, the Thacker Pass project will be developed in two phases and will produce 60,000tpa of battery-grade lithium carbonate (Li2CO3).

The company expects to develop the project as an open-pit mining operation with proven resources of 3.1 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) and a mine life of 46 years.

“We plan to rapidly advance this scalable project to become the leading source of lithium production in the US.”

Through the development plan, Lithium Americas aims to advance the project to become a major source of lithium production in the US.

Lithium Americas North American operations president Alexi Zawadzki said: “The strong economics demonstrated by the PFS clearly support the commercial potential for this large, high-grade clay-based lithium resource.

“With the experience of our team and leveraging our strong partner relationships, we plan to rapidly advance this scalable project to become the leading source of lithium production in the US.”

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The PFS has indicated an initial production capacity of 30,000tpa during the first phase commencing in 2022, before increasing it to 60,000tpa during the second phase in 2026.

The project development is estimated to cost $581m for the first phase and $478m for the second phase.

The study demonstrated that the expected price of $12,000/t for battery-grade lithium carbonate from Phase I production would fully fund capital costs required for Phase II.

While construction of Phase I is scheduled to begin in 2020, the construction of the second phase is slated for 2025.

The company collaborated with its largest shareholder, Ganfeng Lithium, to develop and test the process flowsheet to produce lithium carbonate from claystone using conventional sulphuric acid leaching.