Emerging lithium producer Galaxy Resources reported in mid-April 2010 that it has signed long-term off-take agreements that will absorb 100% of the production from its Mt. Cattlin lithium project now under construction 2 km north of Ravensthorpe in southern Western Australia. The buyers include Mitsubishi Corp. and 13 major Chinese lithium cathode producers. The hard rock Mt. Cattlin spodumene mine and concentrator are designed to produce 137,000 mt/y of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate. Galaxy started construction at the project in November 2009 and is targeting completion during the third quarter of 2010 (E&MJ, December 2009, p. 22).
Contract miner Orionstone Pty began stripping the Mt. Cattlin orebody in early March, with expectations that ore will be available for commissioning of the processing plant beginning in July. Orionstone’s mining fleet at Mt. Cattlin includes a Hitachi 1800 excavator, four Caterpillar 777D haul trucks, a Caterpillar D10 dozer, and ancillary equipment.
Also in early March, Galaxy reported that proven and probable JORC-compliant contained lithium oxide reserves at Mt. Cattlin had increased to 11.4 million mt grading 1.05% Li2O, up 23% from reserves previously reported in September 2009. Reserve estimates are based on an assumed mining and processing rate of 1 million mt/y of ore, with 95% mining recovery and 10% dilution.
Processing of Mt. Cattlin ore will include crushing and screening to minus 6 mm, reflux classification to remove mica flakes, two-stage heavy media separation in two separate size streams, gravity concentration of tantalite minerals, production of 137,000 mt/y of spodumene concentrate grading 6.0% Li2O, and shipment of bulk spodumene concentrate through Esperance, Western Australia, to Zhangjiagang, China, for downstream processing at a lithium carbonate chemical facility in Jiangsu province.
Creat, a private Chinese investment company, holds a 19.9% interest in Galaxy and is arranging financing to support the company’s lithium projects. Estimated capital investment for the combined Mt. Cattlin mine and downstream processing projects is about A$135 million.