World's largest lithium mines to be in Australia following increased demand
Two of the largest lithium mines in the world are set to be built in Australia, following increasing sales of electric vehicles and mobile phones in China and demand for Lithium for the batteries to power them.
Pilbara Minerals, which is developing the Pilgangoora Project in Western Australia, has recently signed an offtake agreement with Chinese firm General Lithium and plans to start mining next year.
Pilbara chief executive Ken Brinsden, said: "It's going to take a big project like ours to make a dent in the demand side. This whole scene will become really important for Australia. There's every chance that by the time we get up they will be the two largest lithium mines in the world.”
The US/Chinese-owned Greenbushes lithium mine in south Western Australia has now been declared to be the world's biggest lithium mine.
As many as five million new energy vehicles could be built in China by 2020; US electric car maker Tesla has received almost half a million orders for its Series 3 vehicle, released next year.
Another West Australian lithium developer Neometals stated that Lithium had tripled in price in the past year as batteries increase in size.
In response to this, the company is looking to commercialise its resources at Mount Marion. Mining colossus Rio Tinto has indicated that it was undertaking a pre-feasibility study on the Jadar lithium deposit in Serbia.
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Anglo American: FutureSmart Mining
Anglo American’s approach to technology, digitalisation and sustainability is changing the nature of the way the company mines. These are the step-change innovations that will transform the nature of mining – how the company sources, mines, processes, moves and markets its products – and how its stakeholders experience that business. Anglo American is transforming its physical and societal footprint with FutureSmart Mining.
“FutureSmart Mining is our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining,” Anglo American’s Tom McCulley told Mining Gllobal. In his role as CEO for Anglo American Peru & Group Head of Projects he has overseen investment of more than $5bn at the company’s Quellaveco copper project in Peru.
“These are the step-change innovations that will transform the nature of mining – how we source, mine, process, move and market our products – and how our stakeholders experience our business. It’s about transforming our physical and societal footprint.”
Anglo is undertaking a feasibility study to assess the possibility of rolling out one of its FutureSmart technologies, Coarse Particle Recovery (CPR), at Quellaveco. “CPR crushes particles to 2.5 times larger than normal, reducing energy consumption and mill time, leading to a 20% increase in throughput and 85% water recovery - a key issue in Peru given the concerns around water scarcity,” says McCulley.
“By allowing water to release from the much coarser particles, CPR will reduce the risks associated with wet tailings and ultimately help eliminate them altogether. When combined with low cost additives, it is possible to dewater residual waste and produce dry stackable tailings. This technology remains a focus area for us as water sent to tailings facilities often represents the largest water loss at a mine.”
Quellaveco is going to be the first mine to run the FutureSmart operating model from day one. Anglo’s idea is to build a stable base on which it can layer new technologies, CPR being one of them.
“We will also be a fully digital mine, which brings us future benefits in terms of understanding and applying changes in real time,” adds McCulley. “Our trucks and our drills will be automation-ready. We have taken the approach that, when we decide to move into an autonomous operation, no jobs will be lost, but the nature of some people’s jobs will have to change.”
FutureSmart is a blend of technology and sustainability,” said McCulley in an interview with Global Business Reports. “If you go back to the vision and design of Quellaveco, it has really been focused on the long-term sustainability of the mine through effective use of things like water, energy and the environment. Quellaveco has been focused on technology such as automation, with digital and analytical tools all coming together. We will be looking at future technologies to bolt on as we go to ensure that we are optimizing the sustainable use of resources and remaining cost-effective.”
Anglo American’s Quellaveco copper project in Peru has created 15,000 jobs during construction and approximately 2,500 jobs are planned for operations, increasing Peru’s copper production by a forecast 300,000 tonnes per year. The mine’s first copper production is expected in 2022. To learn more about Anglo American's Quellaveco copper project read our feature here.