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Project Notes


LITHIUM ON THE MOVE
November 2021

Australia produces 50% of the world’s mined lithium. With lithium prices having increased four-fold in the past year, the project outlook is encouraging for Australian companies, at home and overseas.

In Australia, early construction is underway at two major lithium projects: Mt Holland in Western Australia and Finnis near Darwin in the Northern Territory.

In addition, Pilbara Minerals is expanding capacity at its Pilgangoora lithium mine in Western Australia

In Africa, Australian company, AVZ Minerals, expects to commence construction in mid-2022 at its Manono lithium project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, “the largest and highest grade undeveloped hard-rock lithium project in the world” in the view of the company.

Also in Africa, Australian company, Firefinch, expects to commence construction in mid-2022 at its Goulamina lithium project in Mali.

In South America, Australian company, Orocobre, is a major player in lithium in South America, with its operating Olaroz mine in Argentina and plans for further developments in the region.

Lithium production is based on hard-rock mining in Australia and many other countries (in Chile, Argentina and China, it is based mainly on the extraction of brines at high altitudes).

Hard-rock mining and initial processing lead to a concentrate, which is typically sent overseas for refining into higher-grade products (e.g lithium hydroxide, suitable for lithium-ion batteries).

Refining is dominated by China, the two leading companies being Ganfeng Lithium and Tianqi Lithium.

However, Australia is beginning to play a role in this field. A refinery in Perth, involving Tianqi Lithium and the US company, Albermerle, was commissioned in August this year.

The Mt Holland project includes a similar refinery in Perth, with construction to commence in early 2022.

And other Australian lithium companies are looking at ways of processing concentrates into high-grade lithium products.

At the same time, Chinese companies are likely to continue playing an important part in Australian lithium mining and refining, both as investors and offtake partners.


Greenbushes, Western Australia - the world's largest lithium mine


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MINING IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA: SIGNS OF LIFE?
16 July 2021

Mining and petroleum account for nearly 30% of the economy of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Mining development has suffered historically from internal political conflicts and (and since last year) the coronavirus pandemic. But mining is now showing signs of life.

Construction has just commenced at a US$150-million gold project on Woodlark Island (east of Port Moresby). Expansion plans are gathering pace at St Barbara Resources’ operating gold mine on Simberi Island (north of Woodlark). And the government wants to see movement on the world-class Wafi-Golpu copper-gold project near Lae (due north of Port Moresby), being held back by a legal conflict between the national government and local government concerned.

PNG has two other world-class copper prospects: Frieda River in the north of the country (owned by Pan-Aust, an Australian-based, Chinese-owned company) and Bougainville in the east (whose government is currently negotiating with the national government a proposal for independence).