Sal de Vida

A globally competitive, highly profitable tier 1 lithium brine project 

The Sal de Vida Project is located in Catamarca Province on the Salar del Hombre Muerto, approximately 1,400km northwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The Sal de Vida deposit lies within the “lithium triangle”, an area encompassing Chile, Bolivia and Argentina that contains a significant portion of the world’s estimated lithium resources. Catamarca is a proven mining jurisdiction, home to several successful mining operations and development projects such as Livent Corp and Minera Alumbrera. 

Sal de Vida is utilising a simplified flowsheet,  mature technology and staging development to reduce project risk and allow cash flow from Stage 1 to fund later stages. 

The 2021 Sal de Vida Feasibility Study confirms a globally competitive brine operation with lowest quartile capital and operating costs. The Study details conventional brine extraction, evaporation and processes  onsite for initial production of 10,700 tpa of battery grade lithium carbonate (“LC”), readily expandable to ~32ktpa LC. 

For further information on Sal de Vida’s 2021 Feasibility Study, please click here.

HIGHLIGHTS

The 2021 Sal de Vida Feasibility confirms a globally competitive brine operation with lowest capital and operating costs 

Stage 1 Project Summary

10,700 tpa LC
Annual production

754 Li ppm
Resource grade

44 year
Project Life

84%
Pond Recovery

1.7%
Pond grade feed

US$153 million

Development Capital

US $3,500 tonne

Cash operating costs

US$809 million 

Pre-tax NPV 

43%

Pre-tax IRR

2 year payback

From first production

Geology and Mineralisation

Updated Resource and Reserve released on 14 April 2021 

  • Brine Resource Estimate of 6.2 Mt LCE & Brine Reserve Estimate of 1.3Mt LCE 
  • For further information on Sal de Vida’s Mineral Resource and Ore Reserve, click here.
  • One of the highest-grade lithium brines globally at 754 ppm Li and low levels of Mg, Ca, B impurities 
  • Piloting and test-work shows the brine readily upgrades to battery grade lithium carbonate
  • Hydrological pump testing demonstrates excellent aquifer recharge and extraction rates

Production wellfield drilling & exploration  

  • Commenced in late 2020 to install 8 production wells for stage 1 and test the resource at depth
  • Two completed wells led to a 27% increase in resource and a 13% increase in reserve
  • 1.3 Mt LCE resource uplift due to higher brine grade and deeper wells than previous drilling
  • Brine samples assayed from these two wells averaged 933 ppm Li
  • Further drilling upside from remaining production wells as previous drilling is open at depth 
  • Impact of higher-grade brine on plant and project financials discussed 
  • Production & exploratory drilling will continue with a market update expected in Q3 2021 

Brine Extraction and Processing

Wellfields to evaporation ponds

  • 9 production wells, 7 operational, 2 on standby
  • Evaporation ponds covering 284 hectares
  • Regular salt harvesting plan to minimise pond capital
  • Liming:  milk-of-lime solution added to partially remove Mg, Ca, B impurities

Processing plant

  • Designed to produce 10,700 tpa lithium carbonate
  • Buffer ponds: limed brine is further concentrated to a final feed solution
  • Softening: concentrated feed brine is heated with caustic soda solution to precipitate Ca and Mg
  • Ion exchange: bolt-on equipment added to the flowsheet to lower Ca and Mg and yield battery grade quality lithium carbonate
  • Crystallisation: Na2CO3 combined with softened brine at elevated temperatures to produce solid lithium carbonate 

Production of battery grade lithium carbonate

Targeting production of 80% battery grade, 10% technical grade and 10% primary grade material

Adoption of battery grade has been seamlessly incorporated into Stage 1 design 

High-grade lithium carbonate provides direct access to top tier value chains, enabling higher margins

Piloting samples have been dispatched to prospective offtake customers for testing and discussions have commenced

Onsite piloting will continue in 2021 to fine tune operational parameters, conduct staff training and generate further samples 

Site Layout and Stage 1 Development Progress

Pond location based on optimal constructability properties, minimal earthworks and lower environmental impact 

Work is underway to support the transition from diesel generators to a more sustainable energy mix – photovoltaic (PV) and/or natural gas

Accommodation camp upgrade, drilling of production wells and construction of key roads are underway 

The project is serviced by key infrastructure including major roads, rail, air and multiple seaports in Argentina and Chile 

Roadmap to first production

Early works 2021

  • Construction and filling of first ponds
  • Procure long lead items
  • Detailed design of process plant and early site works
  • Battery grade testing and offtake discussions with prospective customers

 

Project Execution

  • Commissioning of first operational ponds
  • Plant construction & commissioning
  • Operational readiness
  • First full production in late 2022
  • Ramp up to capacity in 2023

Stage 1 readily expands to ~32,000 tpa LC with two additional stages 

Stages 1-3 Project Summary

~32,000 tpa LC

Annual production

US$466 million

Development Capital 

US$3,352 /tonne 

Cash operating costs

US$2.1 billion

Pre-tax NPV

43%

Pre-tax IRR

3.6 year payback

From first production

Stage 1 

  • Moderate scale to get to market faster
  • Project design includes allowances for later expansions
  • Qualified product from Stage 1 enables later stages to supply the same customer base more rapidly

Stages 2 & 3 

    • Pre-feasibility level engineering (PFS) completed  and confirms capital and operating assumptions 
    • Design basis is a duplication of Stage 1 with  10,700 tpa LC battery grade for each additional stage
    • Wellfield and ponds located in SW region of tenement package
    • Processing plant to be located at same site as Stage 1 presenting many synergies with labour, capital, reagent and product handling
    • Synergies in project delivery and operational costs will also be realised in the expansion 
    • Potential exists to accelerate or combine expansion stages 

Opportunities

  • Strategically, staged approach allows prudent de-risking of the development, by adopting experience from Stage 1 into later stages  
  • The PFS level does not accommodate expansion synergies, however will be uncovered as engineering advances the
  • Base case has assumed two further stages of 10.7 ktpa, with further upside from higher grade brine also applicable to expansions
  • Increased aquifer brine content, processing technologies and operational efficiencies indicate the optimal next stage might be anywhere between 10-20ktpa, providing further  economies of scale through design, construction and operation
  • Cashflow generation from Mt Cattlin and Sal de Vida Stage 1 will assist in funding future stages
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