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A strategic review into the Pittong kaolin project, in Victoria, has validated a 60 000 t/y processing capacity for owner Suvo Strategic Metals.

The ASX-listed company on Friday said that with an expected 83% utilisation, Pittong would produce some 50 000 t/y of hydrous kaolin from the third quarter of the 2023 financial year.

Suvo said that the company has a high degree of certainty that nameplate capacity of some 60 000 t/y could be achieved through a combination of equipment upgrades and process optimisation at its Pittong operations, subject to the plant being continuously operated 24/7.

This comes as a result of a review of mining operations and processing infrastructure, with input from specialist engineering groups, identifying existing bottlenecks and optimisation opportunities. Suvo also told shareholders that it was reasonable that in addition to the increase in nameplate capacity, the upgrade, optimisation of equipment and investment in human resources will unlock substantial cost efficiencies.

The plant upgrade and optimisation comes at a capital cost of A$2.3-million, which includes costs required to upgrade and replace critical equipment at the wet and dry plant in order to meet the nominal design capacity of 9 t/h.

All hydroclones will be replaced at the wet plant as excessive wear has inhibited the effectiveness and efficiency of the equipment. Engineering reports have indicated that substantial production efficiencies can be unlocked through the replacement of dated equipment and refurbishment of key infrastructure, such as the filter presses and band dryer, Suvo said.

The Pittong plant upgrade capital works are expected to be completed by the end of of the third quarter of the 2023 financial year, and t completion of the upgrade the Pittong operation is expected to produce some 50 000 t/y of hydrous kaolin which represents an 83% utilisation rate based on the 60 000 t/y nameplate capacity.

Meanwhile the company on Friday also reported that all-in sustaining costs for the operation has been reduced from A$592/t to A$359/t, while the project is forecast to generate earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) of A$8.3-million in the 2024 financial year.

“The completion of the strategic review of the Pittong operations is a major milestone, unlocking tremendous value for Suvo and its shareholders. By identifying and upgrading vital plant and equipment it has resulted in the opportunity to lift production and reduce operating cost at a modest capex and will translate into a doubling of production and a 4x lift in forecast Ebitda,” said Suvo executive chairperson Henk Ludik.

“Study work leading to the plant upgrade has enabled the company to validate the growing demand for quality hydrous kaolin globally. Pittong is the only producer of hydrous kaolin in Australia. This gives the company great confidence in unlocking other kaolin related markets including Metakaolin applications for emerging opportunities in carbon reducing green cement. The company is of the firm opinion that if the federal government are to meet its 2030 carbon reduction targets, green cement will be an integral part of the plan to meet those targets.”