Australian lithium producer Pilbara Minerals has partnered with China’s Ganfeng Group to undertake a joint feasibility study for the development of a lithium conversion plant.

The study, set to finish in the March quarter of the following year, will evaluate the potential of a plant capable of producing 32,000t of lithium carbonate equivalent chemicals, as well as an intermediate lithium chemical product.

It will consider various locations for the plant, including Australia, which is on the agreed list of potential countries.

This collaboration with Ganfeng complements Pilbara’s existing strategic partnerships including the downstream joint venture (JV) with POSCO and the JV with Calix to construct a midstream lithium chemicals demonstration plant.

Pilbara is currently engaged in two mine expansion projects at Pilgangoora, known as the P680 and P1000, aimed at increasing the annual production of spodumene concentrate.

These expansions are expected to raise the yearly nameplate production rate to approximately one million tonnes.

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Upon reaching full expansion and operating at nameplate capacity, Pilbara anticipates that the increased production will fulfil all existing offtake agreements from the 2027 calendar year onwards.

Additionally, it will provide an extra 300,000t per year to the JV’s lithium chemical plant, contingent on the final investment decision and the formation of the JV.

Beyond these commitments, the expanded production profile will also offer a substantial amount of unallocated production.

Pilbara is further assessing the feasibility of boosting production capacity beyond one million tonnes per year, with results anticipated in the June quarter.

Pilbara managing director and CEO Dale Henderson said: “We are delighted to have selected our long-standing customer, Ganfeng, to join us in taking the next step towards a major downstream facility for lithium battery chemicals production.

“This incremental move supports our strategic aim to capture greater value through the supply chain and realise the benefits of supply chain integration.

“Ganfeng is a leader and major supplier of lithium chemicals globally. Over the course of its 24-year history, Ganfeng has grown extensive global supply chain relationships with many of the major operators in this emerging battery materials industry.”