• MinRes has signalled its already very obvious intention to consolidate the Goldfields lithium sector with a Chris Ellison power play at Delta Lithium
  • The major shareholder of the Mt Ida and Yinnetharra explorer will remove David Flanagan as exec chair, with Ellison himself to become non-exec chair and lithium boss Josh Thurlow to join DLI board as non-exec director
  • It comes as a mad rush of lithium M&A continues to dominate the ASX resources market

Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) and its rich lister boss Chris Ellison appears to have taken another capital in its game of Civilisation to become the dominant lithium player in WA’s hot Goldfields region.

Fresh off taking a major 17.44% stake in Delta Lithium (ASX:DLI), owner of the near development Mt Ida resource and promising Yinnetharra project, Ellison will displace executive chair David Flanagan.

Flanagan will exit the $380 million lithium junior, with Ellison installed as non-executive chairman.

MinRes’ lithium CEO Josh Thurlow will also become a non-executive director with Delta board member James Croser to step in as interim CEO and MD while a search for a new MD takes place.

It is the latest step in a corporate power play that has seen MinRes throw a virtual blanket over its fiefdom in the Eastern Goldfields, where the $13 billion lithium, iron ore and mining services giant is the operator of the Mt Marion JV near Kalgoorlie with China’s Ganfeng.

MinRes revealed itself as the likely winner of the Bald Hill lithium mine from the hands of Alita Resources’ administrators last week, which would give the company control of the region’s two operating lithium processing plants.

On top of that MinRes is the largest shareholder in Bill Beament’s Develop Global (ASX:DVP), which is seeking to acquire Essential Metals (ASX:ESS) in a $152 million scrip bid to build the small Pioneer Dome lithium project.

MinRes backed that bid after building a major stake in Essential to block a seemingly done deal that would have seen Greenbushes JV partners IGO (ASX:IGO) and Tianqi collect the Pioneer Dome asset.

MinRes also holds the largest individual stake in Global Lithium (ASX:GL1), owner of the 36Mt at 1.13% Li2O Manna resource around 100km east of Kalgoorlie.

Its Wodgina JV partner Albemarle is looking to acquire Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR) and its Kathleen Valley mine near Leinster, but the secondary Buldania resource near Norseman would almost certainly make more sense being in MinRes’ logistics network.

The network of deposits on the stretch from Kathleen Valley down to Esperance was described by Flanagan himself as a “super corridor” and “lithium corridor of power” where he saw consolidation coming several months back.


Lithium M & A heats up

It’s not just MinRes throwing its heft around.

Iron ore magnate Gina Rinehart has emerged as a potential roadblock in Albemarle’s $6.6bn deal for Liontown, mopping up a 7.72% stake in the Tim Goyder chaired developer just as the US chemicals giant got the all clear to start due diligence.

Allkem (ASX:AKE) is currently pursuing a $16 billion merger with US producer Livent.

Albemarle has also spent C$109 million to take a 4.9% stake in Patriot Battery Metals (ASX:PMT) and its Corvette discovery in Quebec, while Azure Minerals (ASX:AZS) turned down a bid from its major shareholder SQM as it looks to realise the full potential of its exciting Andover discovery in the Pilbara.

Sitting on the sidelines is Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS), which had $3.3 billion of cash sitting impatiently in its bank account at June 30 after a record year of volume and prices at its Pilgangoora mine in FY23 as surging EV demand sent lithium prices flying.

It appointed former Macquarie banker John Stanning as its chief development officer to lead its business development team earlier this year in an apparent sign M & A was on MD Dale Henderson’s mind.

But recent communiques have focused more on its own organic opportunities, with a big resource increase at Pilgangoora issued at the Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie last month.

A strategic partnering process is currently ongoing for a downstream lithium development alongside its expansion at Pilgangoora.

It is enhancing its plant capacity from 580,000tpa to 680,000tpa, with a further expansion to 1Mtpa due to be completed by late 2025, something that would make it the second biggest hard rock mine in the world behind the Greenbushes operation in WA’s South West.


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