AVZ strides ahead of the pack with growing lithium resource
Special Report: The status of AVZ Minerals’ Manono project as the world’s biggest hard rock lithium resource has grown after further discoveries at the central African site.
AVZ Minerals has significantly expanded its lithium resource at its 60%-owned Manono project, confirming the project as the world’s largest hard rock lithium resource.
From big to biggest
AVZ has confirmed that after further drilling at the Manono project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mineral exploration company has increased its mineral resource by 57%.
AVZ’s world-class Manono project is now the largest hard rock (non-brine) lithium resource in the world.
According to an independent research report by Roskill, the increase will enable AVZ to expand its operating capacity and produce more than 300ktpa of LCE (lithium carbonate equivalent) contained in concentrate.
This is enough to meet all lithium demand globally in 2019.
“Furthermore, unlike some of its closest peers (such as Clayton Valley, Sonora and Thacker Pass, which will require integrated plants), Manono hosts traditional pegmatite mineralisation that can produce a spodumene-bearing concentrate for conventional conversion at existing refining facilities in China.”
Spodumene is the main mineral containing lithium which is mined around the world from hard rock lithium mines.
The independent research report said that while the project faces challenges due to its location and the costs of transporting concentrate to market, greater processing capacity will lead to cost savings.
“An expanded processing capacity will ultimately bring some cost saving to the project through economies of scale.”
Hard rock has the edge
The report said that a rally in lithium prices since 2015 has revived the economic viability of mineral-based, or hard rock, lithium projects.
“For much of the past few decades, refined lithium supply has been dominated by lower-cost production from brine deposits,” the report said.
Lithium in brine deposits – or saline groundwater enriched with lithium – is abundant around the world, but only some regions have the right geography and climate for consistent production.
As such, lithium production from brine deposits is less reliable as it can be hindered by factors such as weather.
With demand for lithium only set to grow – including its use in lithium-ion battery cells in electric vehicles – hard rock lithium deposits will need to fill growing demand for the mineral.
Looking ahead, the lithium-ion battery market is projected to reach USD 81.65 billion globally by 2021.
And demands from the automotive industry for lithium-ion batteries could grow seven-fold from 70 GWh in 2017 to 650 GWh by 2025.
Quantity AND Quality
AVZ’s Manono project is one of the few lithium projects globally that have low levels of impurities of mica and iron oxide.
This enables AVZ to meet the standards required of the next generation of lithium batteries, as requirements becoming more stringent.
Lithium battery manufacturers are demanding higher purity levels, as impurities can result in poor battery performance or battery failure.
In August this year the Manono project was confirmed as the largest hard rock lithium project in the world, and the second-highest grade.
A scoping study in October concluded that the project was the world’s largest undeveloped lithium project according to grade, mine life and expandability.
These factors give AVZ Minerals an edge amidst the growing global demand for high-quality lithium.