Advanced lithium explorer Piedmont is prepping for a big resource increase, announcing high grades and a fresh discovery at its namesake project in North Carolina.

The company (ASX:PLL), which owns the Piedmont lithium project in the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt (TSB), has reported grades of up to 1.65 per cent lithium at its Central Property (see further down).

The typical grades of a hard rock lithium mine range between 0.9 and 1.6 per cent, so this is a great start.

Piedmont also stumbled upon another spodumene bearing pegmatite on the property, about 185 metres to the east, “the results of which will also be reported in the coming month”.

Pegmatites are rocks formed from lava or magma that are the primary source of lithium.

Piedmont president Keith D. Phillips says these drilling results at Central, both in terms of the grades and thicknesses reported, clearly demonstrated the TSB’s potential.

“The United States Geological Survey undertook a detailed review of the TSB in the 1970s and documented the vast potential of the region at that time,” he says.

“Drilling is also going very well on our expanded Core property and suffice it to say we believe a significant expansion to our 16.2 million tonne maiden resource will be forthcoming mid-year.”

Piedmont's Core and Central properties.
Piedmont’s Core and Central properties.

The TSB has remained largely unexplored in the 20-plus years since the area’s historic lithium mines were depleted.

Piedmont Lithium is nearish to the Hallman Beam and Kings Mountain mines, which historically provided most of the Western world’s lithium between the 50s and the 80s.

In September 2018 the company published a scoping study for low cost, integrated lithium hydroxide business based on the Core property’s maiden mineral resource estimate.

Piedmont reckons a staged development could minimise up-front cash requirements and equity dilution.

The company would need $US109 million to pay for Stage 1, but Stage 2 capex for chemical plant would be “funded largely by internal cash flow”, the company says.

READ: Lithium Stocks – Everything you need to know