Just four weeks after listing on the Australian Stock Exchange, Lithium Universe (ASX: LU7) has unveiled a vision for a vertically-integrated lithium processing hub in Canada.
The company has devised a strategy to promote collaborative growth among lithium junior exploration companies in the James Bay area of Québec to help position Canada as a major supplier of lithium to the global market.
In pursuit of this goal, it is investigating the possibilities of establishing the Québec Lithium Processing Hub (QLPH) comprising a multi-purpose independent 1 million tonnes per annum concentrator capable of processing general run-of-mine (ROM) spodumene ore.
Concentrate will be fed to a nearby downstream battery-grade lithium carbonate refinery which is expected to be rated at 16,000tpa.
Its design will be based on the operating Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant in China, which has a capacity of 17,000tpa.
The hub would also feature a four-stage crushing and dense media separation plant similar to the flow sheet at the Mt Cattlin spodumene project, which produced 137,000tpa of product under the management of now-defunct Galaxy Resources.
Lithium Universe said it would consider entering long-term offtake ROM contracts with regional lithium junior partners to supply ore feed for the concentrator.
This strategy is expected to generate early cash flow for the juniors and facilitate the development of their own mining projects.
Pricing of the ROM ore will be determined by its lithium content and could potentially bring strong returns for participating companies.
Expertise and resources
Lithium Universe chairman Iggy Tan said few junior companies in Canada possess the experience and skills to develop a fully-integrated project such as the QLPH.
“It is not enough to simply unearth lithium deposits — a company must possess the expertise and resources to build and operate fully-integrated lithium processing and downstream facilities,” he said.
“Each stage requires distinct skill sets and mindsets [and it can be] challenging to find this extensive skillset embedded within a single company.”
“Lithium dream team”
Mr Tan was one of the first Australian mining executives to identify a significant opportunity within the emerging lithium-ion battery sector 20 years ago, when he spearheaded Galaxy Resources.
He assembled a “lithium dream team” to build Mt Cattlin and Jiangsu and also acquired the James Bay (spodumene) and Sal de Vida (brine) projects in Argentina.
Among the members of the team is lithium veteran Patrick Scallan, who managed the world-class Greenbushes mine in Western Australia for over 25 years; and Terry Stark, who previously served as general manager (operations) for the Mt Cattlin and James Bay projects.
Other members are ex-Greenbushes executive Roger Pover; Mt Cattlin mine design and construction expert Huy Nguyen; and ex-Jiangsu executives Dr Jingyuan Liu and John Loxton.
“Our team has unparalleled expertise in spodumene hard rock processing and lithium carbonate production [and] by leveraging their knowledge and experience, we are confident in our ability to swiftly establish a vertically-integrated lithium processing hub,” Mr Tan said.
“We believe this [development] will enhance the value proposition for our company and support the Canadian government’s goals of building a robust lithium industry with a strong domestic supply chain.”