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The Pilgangoora operation. Image: Pilbara Minerals

Pilbara Minerals has set a quarterly production record for spodumene concentrate at the Pilgangoora lithium operation in Western Australia while commencing improvement projects at the site.

According to the company’s March quarter report, the record 77,820 dry metric tonnes of spodumene concentrate was thanks in part to higher demand, along with the development of the tailings management facility and haul road construction works.

A minor setback to shipments of approximately two weeks was seen after a nearby cargo vessel fire caused port-wide delays in Dampier in Western Australia.

Despite this, Pilbara managed a shipment total of 71,229 dry metric tonnes of spodumene concentrate during the March quarter, meeting the shipping guidance of 67,000-77,000 dry metric tonnes.

The company believed demand for lithium would only increase in the near future, and Pilbara’s shipment levels would follow.

“Pilbara Minerals expects these conditions will continue and forecasts shipped tonnes for the June quarter 2021 to be in the range of 75,000 to 90,000 (dry metric tonnes) of spodumene concentrate,” Pilbara Minerals stated in the quarterly report.

Process plant improvements at the Pilgangoora operation in Western Australia commenced in March after Pilbara handed a $15 million contract to a joint venture between SIMPEC and IronMerge (the latter owned by native title holders).

Such improvements will be expected to improve production capacity by more than 10 per cent, allowing the plant’s annual capacity to reach around 380,000 tonnes.

Earlier in the quarter, Pilbara acquired the Altura lithium project in Western Australia for $201 million.

Pilbara managing director and chief executive Ken Brinsden said in January the timing was perfect for the company.

“The well-timed and cost-effective acquisition of our neighbouring operation is one of the most compelling transactions seen in the lithium sector in recent times,” Brindsen said.

“It represents a unique opportunity to realise tangible synergies from integrating two very similar mining and processing operations and adopting a holistic approach to extracting value from what is essentially the same orebody.”