Open pit lithium mining operations commence at Liontown’s Kathleen Valley project
04 February 2023
Australia-based Liontown Resources has begun open pit mining operations at the Kathleen Valley Lithium Project in Western Australia (earlier post); the first blast was successfully fired at the Mt. Mann Open Pit by mining services provider Iron Mine Contracting. (Liontown has already secured offtake agreements with Tesla, Ford and LG Energy Solutions.)
Aerial view of the first blast for the Mt Mann open pit.
The blast area contains predominantly waste rock which will be used as bulk fill for construction of the Run of Mine (ROM) pad. The small quantity of ore contained within the blast will ultimately be used to sheet the ROM pad once constructed.
Mine plan optimization work undertaken recently has reduced the operational complexity of the mine plan from both an open pit and underground mining perspective. The Kathleen’s Corner open pit will be expanded to produce more ore than estimated in the Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) and the Mt Mann open pit will be reduced to a large box-cut, which will be completed prior to the establishment of the underground portal and subsequent decline development.
The expanded Kathleen’s Corner open pit will result in more material being moved over the initial project period. Liontown said that strong lithium market conditions provide a potential opportunity to monetize material not previously expected to be processed as a Direct Shipping Ore (DSO) product, delivering early revenue during the pre- and post-commissioning phase at Kathleen Valley.
Liontown is currently progressing this DSO opportunity with sample composites currently being prepared for potential customers. Additionally, it is expected that material mined in the near-term will be used for bulk test work. The company will make further announcements regarding the DSO opportunity as optimization work concludes and tenders for crushing and sorting services are assessed.
Iron Mine Contracting Pty Ltd (Iron Mine Contracting) is providing open pit mining services under a Preliminary Works Agreement which has enabled mobilization, site establishment and the commencement of mining services while the parties continue to progress a binding open pit mining contract.
In addition to open pit mining services, Liontown has awarded the construction of the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) to Iron Mining Contracting. Waste rock and other suitable materials mined from the open pits will be direct hauled to the TSF location and used to construct the embankments.
Iron Mine Contracting will complete construction of one of the cells of the TSF, including a High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) liner, decant and underdrainage structures, ready for installation of pipework and pumping infrastructure by others.
Iron Mine Contracting is already working with the Tjiwarl Traditional Owners, entering into a Letter of Intent with Tjiwarl Contracting Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tjiwarl Aboriginal Corporation, for the hire of mobile plant and facilities, provision of services, employment and apprenticeships.
Kathleen Valley is located on the western edge of the Norseman-Wiluna Greenstone Belt within the Archaean Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia. Drilling has confirmed multiple high grade zones including individual meters grading >5% Li2O and intercepts of up to 3.8% Li2O over 21m and 3.4% Li2O over 7m.
The Project has a current Mineral Resource Estimate of 156Mt at 1.4% Li2O and 130ppm Ta2O5 (as of April 2021). Over 80% of the Mineral Resource is classified as Measured or Indicated.
An Ore Reserve of 68.5Mt at 1.34% Li2O and 120ppm Ta2O5 (as of November 2021) supports an expected mine life of ~23 years.