The Bougouni Lithium Project comprises a large land holding (295km2) covering highly prospective lithium pegmatites in the Bougouni Region of southern Mali, approximately 150km by road from Mali’s capital, Bamako. The Project is located in close proximity to road and power infrastructure.
The Project hosts the high-grade spodumene (lithium) pegmatite deposit at Goulamina. The Mineral Resource at Goulamina is 27.8Mt at 1.42% Li2O for 393,000 tonnes of contained Li2O (see ASX release 14 March 2017). This positions the deposit as among the highest grade, hard rock lithium deposits of significant size globally today. Initial processing test work has confirmed the viability of the pegmatite at Goulamina to yield a high quality chemical grade lithium concentrate.
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Goulamina Mineral Resource Classifications
Two extensive bodies of spodumene-bearing pegmatite were originally defined by drilling at Goulamina – Main Zone and West Zone. A third Zone (the Sangar Zone) was defined in early 2017. Mineralisation remains open along strike and geological evidence suggests strike extensions are likely beneath shallow soil cover.
Drilling at Main Zone, targeting the surface expression of lithium mineralisation extending over ~700m of strike, has returned substantial and robust intersections confirming wide and high-grade lithium zones, including;
Highly promising results from drilling at West Zone, located approximately 125m to the west of Main Zone, highlight further exceptionally broad, high-grade lithium mineralisation, including;
There is significant potential to substantially expand the resource and improve the modelled grade with additional drilling, particularly at West and Sangar Zones, where wide and high grade mineralisation remains open along strike near surface and at depth.
Over the past few years, robust demand and constrained supply have led to higher lithium prices – up strongly since the start of 2015. Future demand for lithium looks likely to continue, driven primarily by uptake of lithium batteries for electric cars and static storage. Significantly, lithium battery production capacity is set to treble by 2020 from 2015 levels.
Spodumene is the main lithium bearing mineral in most hard rock lithium deposits. Ores are typically upgraded at the mine site by crushing, screening and dense media separation techniques to produce a spodumene concentrate. Chemical grade concentrate, typically containing 6% Li2O, is sold and converted into lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide for use in battery manufacturing and other industrial applications.
On 30 January 2017*, Birimian announced that the Scoping Study for the Bougouni Lithium Project had confirmed the outstanding potential of the Project, leading to the decision to commence a Pre‐Feasibility Study (PFS). Scoping Study results suggest that the Goulamina deposit will be amenable to low cost, open pit mining and staged processing plant development, benefiting from low mining strip ratios, high grade at surface mineralisation, and the low cost operating environment in Mali. The PFS remains on track to be completed during the June 2017 quarter.
The Bougouni Project Scoping Study evaluated at a high level the technical and potential economic viability of an open pit mine development at the Project's Goulamina deposit, based on the maiden Mineral Resource of 15.5Mt @ 1.48% Li2O. Various processing options were considered to optimise throughput capacity and recoveries, with consideration given to managing early stage potential cash flow and upfront capital costs. Mining and processing parameters were investigated at a US$537 per tonne selling price (6% Li2O concentrate).
The current preferred option is to develop Goulamina as a 1 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) high grade open pit mine to supply material to a conventional dense media separation (DMS) plant (Stage 1). Scope has been defined to transition the processing plant to treat medium-grained material by DMS and flotation in later years (Stage 2). Subject to further detailed studies, the Project could deliver average annual production of approximately 190,000 tonnes of 6% Li2O concentrate over an initial 13 year Life of Mine (LOM). The LOM cash cost is estimated to be US$326 per tonne of concentrate.
Capital costs (determined to a nominal accuracy of +/‐30%) for the processing plant and associated project infrastructure are estimated at US$83.4M, including a US$10.9M contingency. The Initial start-up capital cost for Stage 1 has been estimated at US$ 47.2M. Stage 2 capital cost is US$36.2M, which could potentially be funded by Stage 1 cash flow.
* Scoping Study – Cautionary Statements
The Scoping Study is a preliminary technical and economic study of the potential viability of the Bougouni Lithium Project. It is based on low accuracy technical and economic assessments, and is insufficient to support estimation of Ore Reserves or to provide assurance of an economic development case at this stage; or to provide certainty that the conclusions of the Scoping Study will be realised. Approximately 40% of the existing Mineral Resource is in the Indicated category, with the remainder in the Inferred category. There is a low level of geological confidence associated with Inferred mineral resources and there is no certainty that further exploration work will result in the determination of Indicated or Measured Mineral Resources. Furthermore, there is no certainty that further exploration work will result in the conversion of Indicated and Measured Mineral Resources to Ore Reserves.