AVZ Minerals’ Manono project is projected to become a global supplier of lithium. This comes after the mine proved to be the world’s largest non-brine lithium resource. The Perth-based company released the maiden estimate for its 60%-owned project in the southern Congo earlier on this year.
At the end of November, AVZ published the results of a drilling campaign that further increased Manono’s size – by more than half to just over 400m tonnes grading. State-owned Congolese company Cominiere holds 30% of Manono and the deposit was mined for tin for six decades, ending in 1982. AVZ’s latest resource estimate also includes 300kt of tin and 13.2kt of tantalum.
According to a released statement the company hopes to update its October scoping study before the end of year. Furthermore, AVZ is now reportedly studying a 5mtpa and 10mtpa operation thanks to the expanded resource and offsets provided by tin and tantalum.
London-based research consultants Roskill reports an operation at Manono with a 10m tonnes per year capacity has the potential to produce over 300,000 tonnes per year of lithium carbonate equivalent.
Upon comparison to other lithium projects that will require integrated plants, Roskill found Manono to host traditional pegmatite mineralization that can produce a spodumene-bearing concentrate for conventional conversion at existing refining facilities in China.
There is of course a long road ahead for AVZ at Manono and like many of its peers, the US $110m stock has come under pressure from the fall in the price of lithium. The sector is also a crowded field. Fortunately, AVZ has high-profile backers in Citicorp, JP Morgan and BNP Paribas, who together own 30% of the company.
Meanwhile, unlike cobalt, lithium is yet to be treated as a strategic mineral by the Congolese authorities. Moreover, royalty rates for the former remains at 3.5%. Kinshasa recently imposed a 10% royalty rate on the same.