Altura Mining is developing the Pilgangoora lithium project located near the town of Port Hedland, Australia. Image courtesy of Altura Mining.
Altura produced first lithium spodumene concentrate from its Pilgangoora project in July 2018. Image courtesy of Altura Mining.
The project will produce approximately 440,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate a year. Image courtesy of Altura Mining.

The Pilgangoora lithium project is an open-pit project being developed 123km from Port Hedland, Western Australia. Altura Mining owns the project and is developing it in two stages.

The definitive feasibility study (DFS) of the first stage was completed in September 2016, and construction works started in April 2017. The first batch of lithium concentrate was produced in 2018, and production is expected to be ramped up in the second half of 2018.

DFS of the second stage was completed in April 2018 and operations are expected to commence in the first quarter of 2020.

The project is expected to produce approximately 440,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of spodumene concentrate grading 6% Li2O. An annual run-of-mine production of approximately 4.75 million tonnes (Mt) is expected to be made through its anticipated mine life of 13 years.

The project is expected to create 364 construction jobs during stage one and 480 jobs during the second stage.

Pilgangoora lithium project location and geology

The Pilgangoora lithium project is hosted within the lease tenements M45/1230 and M45/1231, over an area of 394ha.

The project is located on the southern portion of a section that hosts pegmatite intrusives that are part of the synformal Pilgangoora greenstone belt. The pegmatites are hosted within amphibolites, which are of mafic/ultramafic volcanic origin.

Most of the mineralisation is hosted by pegmatites dykes, which range in thickness from 1m to 64m. The mineralised dykes of the project tend to dip eastwards at an angle of 25°-35°.

Pilgangoora lithium project reserves

The Pilgangoora project is estimated to contain ore reserves of 41.1Mt containing 432,000t of Li2O grading 1.05%.

Mining and ore processing at Pilgangoora lithium project

Conventional mining methods including drilling and blasting followed by loading and hauling will be applied to the lithium project. Ore will be stockpiled before being fed to the primary crusher using a front-end loader.

“The project is expected to produce approximately 440,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of spodumene concentrate grading 6% Li2O.”

Altura proposes to conduct mining in seven phases, in a staged approach, starting with the smaller pit on the northern side of the deposit and advancing to the south before reaching the final designed pit.

The stage one and stage two processing plants will operate at 1.54Mtpa each and have a combined throughput capacity of 3.08Mtpa. Both the stages will employ similar processing method to achieve a low-risk, cost-effective expansion.

The processing facility will include a two-stage modular crushing and dry screening circuit, and high-pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) unit. Dense media separation (DMS) will be used to produce a coarse spodumene product.

Mica will be removed before sending the coarse product to the milling and flotation circuit for producing an on-grade fine spodumene product. Magnetic separation will be used to remove contamination from the coarse and fine concentrate.

Altura proposes to store the produced concentrate at its transport partner Qube Holdings’ shed in Wedgefield, Port Hedland. It will then be loaded into Rotaboxes and transported to port before shipping to customers.

Infrastructure facilities at Pilgangoora

The project can be accessed through the Great Northern Highway, Shire roads and station tracks.

Power supply for the mine will be provided by a proposed power station, which will use dual-fuel diesel/gas generators.

Workers will be accommodated at the 368-room Pilgangoora village, which was acquired from Roy Hill Infrastructure in November 2016. The second stage expansion will add 132 rooms to the existing camp.

Offtake of lithium concentrate from Pilgangoora

Altura has entered a binding off-take agreement with Shaanxi J&R Optimum Energy, a Chinese battery manufacturer, for the sale of a minimum of 100,000t of concentrate a year. J&R Optimum has agreed to purchase the product for a minimum period of five years.

Altura entered another off-take agreement with Lionergy, a lithium product specialist group, for a minimum of 100,000t spodumene concentrate a year.

Contractors involved

Altura Mining has awarded the mining contract of the lithium project to NRW, which will be valid for five years.

Civmec was awarded the civil, structural, mechanical and piping, and electrical installations contract for the processing plant, while Powins was engaged for manufacturing the electrical motor control centres.

Altura has contracted Qube Holdings for providing transport, storage and export logistics for the project, while Terra Firma was engaged for providing construction services for the mining operations centre.

Pacific Energy subsidiary Kalgoorlie Power Systems (KPS) was engaged for constructing an 11MW diesel-fuelled power station for the project on a build-own-operate basis.

Altura Mining has engaged Knight Piesold for designing the tailings storage facility, and to conduct plant site pad construction testing.

Strike Drilling and Mt Magnet Drilling supplied drilling rigs for the project, while Intertek conducted on-site testing of the first production batch of lithium.

Cube Consulting, Falck, CITIC, METS Engineering, Metso, Orelogy Consulting, Weir Consolidated, Ravensgate Mining Industry Consultants, DRA Global, Peter O’Brien & Associates and Nagrom are some of the other contractors involved in the project.