Talison Lithium reported in early June 2012 that the Stage 2 Expansion at its Greenbushes lithium operations in southwest Western Australia had been completed and commissioned on time and within budget and that initial performance was exceeding expectations. The expansion more than doubled Talison’s production capacity and was designed to provide operational efficiencies and to enable Talison to supply the needs of the lithium market into the future.
Talison expects to progressively increase capacity utilization of the expanded chemical-grade concentrate processing plant as the lithium market grows. In addition, the expansion will provide high-quality feedstock for Talison’s proposed 20,000-mt/y lithium carbonate plant in the Kwinana Industrial Area 40 km south of Perth and 200 km northeast of the Greenbushes mine. Talison is targeting production of lithium carbonate in 2015, and, at full production, the lithium carbonate plant would consume approximately 20% of Talison’s annual chemical-grade concentrate production.
Talison is targeting an investment decision on the proposed lithium carbonate plant by the end of 2012.
The Greenbushes pegmatite deposit intrudes along a major northwest regional fault zone. The pegmatite consists of a large main zone over 3 km long and up to 300 m wide, with numerous smaller pegmatite dykes and pods flanking the main body. The pegmatites are mineralogically zoned in a lenticular, interfingering style along strike and down dip. The lithium zone is more than 2 km long and enriched in lithium-bearing mineral spodumene, which often makes up 50% of the rock.
Spodumene is mined from the fresh, unweathered zones in the pegmatite that are exposed in open-pits. Mining is traditional drill-and-blast method, with ore graded and stockpiled according to its mineralogical characteristics and grade.
The Greenbushes operation has two processing plants, one producing technical-grade lithium concentrate and one producing chemical-grade lithium concentrate. Ore containing 3% to 4.5% Li2O is fed into the processing plants for upgrading using gravity, heavy media, flotation and magnetic processes into a range of lithium concentrates for bulk or bagged shipment.