European Metals Holdings Ltd (LON:EMH) Managing Director Keith Coughlan caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss the production of battery grade lithium hydroxide samples.
Q1: We note the update that European Metals Holdings made to the market today about battery grade lithium hydroxide samples being produced. Why was it important to produce battery grade lithium hydroxide?
A1: We have previously produced battery grade lithium carbonate which has been, I suppose, a product of choice for some time but the market appears to be moving, more and more people are wanting to purchase hydroxide over carbonite. It’d also higher valued product which obviously has some attractiveness.
Zinnwaldite, that is the host rock for our deposit is relatively unique and I think it was important for us to be able to demonstrate to the market and potential investors that we would be able to produce either carbonate or battery grade hydroxide according to what the market required. So, that’s important in us being able to demonstrate we can produce battery grade lithium hydroxide.
Q2: So, does this mean that you’ll produce both lithium carbonate and hydroxide from the processing facility now that you have chosen the indirect method of production for lithium hydroxide?
A2: Well, what’s more important is that we can demonstrate the optionality to do one or the other. In terms of what we ultimately produce, it’ll be determined during the DFS stage in consultation with offtake partners as to who wants what material, effectively. So, as I said, the optionality gives us the value and the opportunity to be able to demonstrate to any of these offtakers that we can give them whichever product it is that they want.
Q3: The expected production rate for the project has increased markedly from the 2017 PFS projections, what are the reasons behind that?
A3: There’s a couple of reasons behind that. Firstly, lithium hydroxide over lithium carbonate, there are relatively more lithium units by volume anyway, so you get a natural increase in your total volume of end product. Apart from that, we’ve done some significant work over the last 12-18 months on the flowsheet, on the recoveries of lithium from the concentrate and recovery of lithium concentrate from the initial beneficiation step. Effectively, we are producing more lithium per tonne than we were producing when we did the PFS.
So, this should have a very positive effect on the updated PFS when we put it out in a month or so time.
Q4: When will the DFS progress, do you think?
A4: As soon as we put out that PFS update, which as I say should be around a month’s time, I think that’ll give us the impetus to move directly into the formal part of the DFS, that is the detailed engineering.
European Metals have been doing a lot of work which is strictly DFS work over the last 12 months, the only thing we haven’t really done is the formal engineering and we’ve been holding off on doing that until all of these steps were more certain and we knew exactly where we were.
I believe we’ll move into the formal engineering as soon as we’ve updated that PFS, as I say that should be a month or so away.
Q5: Why will you update the PFS when you have already started the DFS?
A5: Well, that’s a good point. The reason is that the PFS is 2 years old now and the reason for the delay between the PFS and the DFS was nothing to do with the project itself or how things were going along technically.
So, we just felt it important to demonstrate to the market that the numbers we’d put together for the PFS were still very valid and in fact, as I alluded to earlier, we could enhance those numbers and that we could produce battery grade hydroxide at a PFS level. As we move into DFS that gives us full optionality over whether we conclude the DFS based upon the premise of producing lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate.