African Minerals - Record Production and Sales Announced
Mineral exploration company, African Minerals, achieved record production and sales during the first quarter of the year. The company announced last week its Tonkolili iron-ore project recorded 5.3 million tons of iron ore in the first quarter of 2014, up 2.2 million from the previous year. First quarter sales for the mining company amounted to 4.6 million tons, up 19 percent from the 3.8 million tons in 2013.
According to chief executive Bernie Pryor, "The Tonkolili project ramp up programme continues to make good progress. The first quarter of 2014 marks our best performance yet, surpassing the record set by Q4 and setting our new operational benchmark. Cash costs continue to improve, falling to $37 per tonne as our production volumes increase, with a commensurate building of cash flow.”
"Preparations are under way for the annual seasonal impacts of the coming wet season, and we look forward to testing our interventions, which should give us the flexibility to successfully manage the coming months, and importantly also reduce our reliance on the production of A32, allowing us to achieve higher received pricing. We are maintaining our guidance of exporting 16-18Mt this calendar year with C1 cash costs of between $34 and $36 per tonne, exiting the year at a sustainable run rate of 20Mtpa, and with cash costs falling to $30/t at that production rate.
Pryor said the company was on par for exporting between 16-million tons and 18-million tons during the calendar year. African Minerals is planning to close the year at a sustainable run rate of 20-million tons a year, with cash costs expected to fall to $30/t at that production rate.
"We are well advanced in our next stage of growth targeting low capital cost optimisation and expansion to our infrastructure capacity. We aim to exit 2014 with a 25Mtpa export capability, and to start the construction of our first friable haematite concentrator facility at the end of this year, with up to 10Mtpa of final product concentrate processing capability being brought online in 2016. This, together with the increased DSO resource recently announced, allows us to extend the life of our concurrent DSO operations and further defer capital for additional concentrator units."
The Tonkolili Iron-ore project is located in the Tonkolili district of Sierra Leone. African Minerals has a 99-year lease, granted by the Sierra Leone Government, to build and manage key rail, port and infrastructure projects.
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.