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Vancouver, BC – February 8, 2024 – USA News Group – In the race to secure new supplies of lithium, one country appears to be surging ahead of others in terms of production and export growth, and that country is Argentina. Amid the current lithium boom, Argentina’s mining exports are set to reach around $4.5 billion in 2023, amid strong prices and the launch of a new lithium mine. Thanks to ambitious innovation in lithium extraction methods, including Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE), plenty of firms are aiming to prove their efforts are working. With analysts projecting that production in Argentina could more than triple by 2030, the country is being primed to become the epicenter of new stage of lithium supply. Among the top stories coming from Argentina’s lithium landscape include developments from Lithium South Development Corporation (TSX-V:LIS) (OTCQB:LISMF), Alpha Lithium Corporation (OTCPK:APHLF), Lithium Americas Corp. (NYSE:LAAC) (TSX:LAAC), Allkem Limited and Livent Corporation (NYSE:LTHM).
At its flagship Hombre Muerto North Lithium (HMN Li) project in Salta Province, Argentina, Lithium South Development Corporation (TSXV:LIS) (OTCQB:LISMF) recently announced a whopping 175% increase in lithium resource, which boosted the total resource from 571,000 tonnes to 1,583,100 tonnes LCE at an average grade of 736 mg/L lithium. The increase set the wheels in motion on a series of actions, including the latest announcement of renewing the project’s Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA), given that so many material changes have occurred since its last PEA was published in 2019. With what the company knows now about the project, they’ll be targeting lithium recovery improvements from the previously projected 50% to approximately 70%.
Lithium South will be utilizing the expertise of Peter Ehren as the primary engineer for Process Optimization and as a Qualified Person for the PEA and NI 43-101 Technical Report. Ehren’s track record includes being responsible for the design of other flagship projects such as Salar de Olaroz of Sales de Jujuy of Allkem Limited, the Pastos Grandes of Lithium Americas Corp. (Argentina) (NYSE:LAAC) (TSX:LAAC), and Salar de Maricunga of Lithium Power International.
The report will use the new HMN Li Project upgraded resource of 1.58 million tonnes Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE). It will also take into consideration current market conditions and pricing for LCE. The report will use an Initial Design Capacity (IDC) of 15,000 tonnes per year LCE production. This IDC could be expanded as further project resources and pumping areas are identified.
Ahead of the new PEA’s release, Lithium South is now building up their momentum towards production testing on the HMN Li project. Most recently reporting the initiation of a drilling campaign to install three pumping/production wells at the 5-claim block, the first well is currently being drilled to a depth of 200m. Early results from core drilling are promising, with a lithium concentration exceeding 1,175 milligrams per liter.
“We are very excited to be able to increase our total LCE resource by such a wide value,” said Adrian F. C. Hobkirk, Lithium South President and CEO. “With the increase in overall resource, we look forward to developing a larger mining plan.”
Now with the pumping/production wells underway, each well will be fitted with screen filters and blind casing. Upon completion, long-term pumping tests will be conducted to determine brine transmissivity, including the maximum flow of each well. Lithium South has also partnered with multiple strategic experts in Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology to improve the project’s profitability.
The HMN Li Project is surrounded by a US$4 billion lithium development underway by South Korean metals giant POSCO and the Sal de Vida Project under development by Allkem Limited. The region, covered with salt and other minerals, is known to contain 70% of the world’s lithium deposits.
The Hombre Muerto Salar has a history of lithium production with Livent’s asset in the salar having been in operation for +25 years just south of the HMN Li Project. The HMN Li Project is also surrounded by a US$4 billion lithium development underway by POSCO and the Sal de Vida Project under development by Allkem Limited. The region, covered with salt and other minerals, is known to contain 70% of the world’s lithium deposits.
Now Allkem is in the process of joining up with Livent Corporation (NYSE:LTHM) through a US$10.6 billion all-stock mega-merger. Across both companies’ assets, their entire lithium brine portfolio is located in Argentina. Livent is bringing in its Hombre Muerto and Güemes properties, while Allkem adds the Sal de Vida, Olaroz, and Cauchari properties to the mix.
“As a combined company, we will have the enhanced scale, product range, geographic coverage, and execution capabilities to meet our customers’ rapidly growing demand for lithium chemicals,” said Livent’s President and CEO, Paul Graves (who has also been designated to be the CEO of the New TopCo). “Together we can accelerate our growth plans and deliver more lithium, more reliably, and more quickly, than either of us can do alone.”
Upon completion of the merger, the combined company will likely become the largest lithium entity in Argentina’s Lithium Triangle segment.
While two companies are combining to make a mega corporation, Lithium Americas Corp. (Argentina) (NYSE:LAAC) (TSX:LAAC) became a new entity after the splitting of its previous parent company into two.
“Following the Separation, the Lithium Americas (NewCo) team is committed to advancing the Thacker Pass project toward production to support the critical North American lithium supply chain,” said Jonathan Evans, Lithium Americas’ President and CEO. “Meanwhile, the Lithium Argentina team will advance Caucharí-Olaroz toward full commercial production and pursue development opportunities in its significant growth pipeline in Argentina.”
In June 2023, Lithium Americas (Argentina) achieved first lithium production at its Caucharí-Olaroz project as they continue the commissioning process and ramp up to Stage 1 capacity of 40,000 tonnes per annum of battery-quality lithium carbonate, which is scheduled to be completed in mid-2024.
Another Salta Province project that’s making progress is the Tolillar lithium brine project of Alpha Lithium Corporation (OTC:APHLF). Recently Alpha filed the results of a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA), following upon an announcement in July which saw a 70% increase in “indicated resources” and a 30% “inferred resource” increase.
“Our Strategic Review Process continues, and Alpha is well-positioned with our unique and highly attractive assets,” said Brad Nichol, President & CEO of Alpha. “Even with conservative estimates, Alpha’s Tolillar project continues to be a significant lithium carbonate project with exceptional and increasing potential.”
According to the new PEA, the Tolillar project has a US$1.7 billion NPV, and a cumulative cash flow of US$8.2 billion over a 35-year production life.
All of these efforts from Alpha are set to be handsomely rewarded. Earlier in June 2023, the company received an acquisition offer from TecPatrol earlier this year, which began at C$1.24 per share, and has since risen to C$1.48 in cash per share to buy all of the outstanding Common Shares.
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