Picture: The Phantom Menace/Disney

Altura Minerals (ASX: AJM) confirmed today that its mining operation in WA’s Pilbara region is now producing commercial amounts of lithium.

Shares in the company initially rose more than seven per cent to just over 14 cents.

That’s still well off the 12-month high of 49 cents reached in March last year, when lithium prices peaked before commencing a sharp slide amid concerns about oversupply.

Altura said its mine now has annual production capacity of 220,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate, equivalent to around 645 tonnes per day.

Spodumene is the main lithium bearing mineral mined from most hard rock lithium mines around the world.

‘Significant milestone’

The company has set of a target lithium metal extraction rate of 80 per cent for its hard rock mining operation. Average levels so far in March are 67 per cent, up from 57 per cent in February.

Altura MD James Brown called the establishment of a commercial operation “one of the most significant milestones in the company’s history”.

“In less than two years we have taken this project from the first sod-turning to full production. Our focus now is to ensure the mining, processing plant and logistics chain are operating as efficiently as possible, and our customers are getting the best quality product we can produce.”

Last November, shares in Altura bounced after it announced it had secured a long-term supply deal with Chinese major Ganfeng Lithium.

Numbers are in

Also today, the company released its half-year numbers to December 31.

Losses increased to $10.979 million on revenue of $450,000, due largely to a big loss on foreign exchange reserves of $5.88 million.

The company also provided an update on its $29.5 million capital raise first announced in February.

The placement was issued at 13 cents per share, and was largely underpinned by institutional investors who contributed around $23 million.

The funds raised will be used to provide a working capital buffer as the company establishes a commercial mine.

In its half-year accounts today, Altura added that the financing package “has been subsequently increased to $34.5 million due to strong demand from shareholders”.