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pilbara minerals' pilgangoora lithium operation

The Pilgangoora operation. Image: Pilbara Minerals

Pilbara Minerals is closer to upgrading its Pilgan plant at the Pilgangoora lithium project in Western Australia, with surging sales and shipments supporting the project.

Despite producing almost 700 tonnes less than the March quarter, Pilbara shipped a record 95,972 dry metric tonnes (dmt) of spodumene concentrate and exceeded its target of 75,000 – 90,000dmt.

Pilbara Minerals managing director Ken Brinsden said in the June quarter’s results presentation that the market for spodumene concentrate was developing in ways not seen for several years.

“We think Pilbara Minerals is incredibly well-placed to be able to participate in this next phase of growth that’s going on in the industry,” Brindsen said

“We would like to think we have the right combination of productive plant capacity, skills amongst the team to maximise the performance of those facilities – and that shouldn’t be underestimated because that is very hard-won in the lithium industry.”

The company produced 77,162dmt and sold a record 109,190dmt of spodumene concentrate for the June quarter, some of which was loaded late in the previous quarter.

Pilgangoora has two plants at different stages of operation – the Pilgan plant and the Ngungaju plant.

The former currently operates at around 350,000 tonnes per annum and is set for a 10-15 per cent improvement project during the September quarter.

The latter is set for a stated restart during the December quarter, as Pilbara Minerals targets up to 200,000dmt by mid-2022.

This would see the company producing up to 580,000dmt once everything is up and running at full capacity, while future improvements to the Pilgan plant aim to push Pilgangoora to be a one million tonne per annum operation.

With such promise on the horizon at Pilbara Minerals, Brinsden said an offtake agreement with Korean manufacturer POSCO was progressing.

“We are still optimistic in both the value in that relationship and the skills of the POSCO team,” Brinsden said.

“We have been frustrated by progress…but nonetheless we are optimistic about the progress of that deal and its relevance to the growth of Pilbara Minerals. We expect to see that progress during the course of next month (August).”

POSCO recently signed an offtake agreement with Queensland Pacific Metals for 3000 tonnes of nickel and 300 tonnes of cobalt per year from the Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub (TECH) project.

The Korean company has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Rio Tinto to develop low-carbon emission technologies for iron ore mining, further exemplifying its commitment to decarbonisation across a range of commodities.