Latest test results have revealed that Australia Stock Exchange-listed junior miner Prospect Resources’ Arcadia lithium project in Zimbabwe has significant potential to increase petalite product recovery from 31 percent to over 60 percent.
Petalite is a preferred input material for the manufacture of ceramics and black glass ceramics product due to its zero-thermal expansion, allowing glass to expand and contract without the crystalline structure failing.
The product is also an integral component in the manufacture of lithium iron and electrical car vehicles, whose demand is rising exponentially as the world looks to steadily transition from combustible fuel engines.
Following the release of the Arcadia Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) in November 2019, Prospect has focussed on improving petalite recovery to meet demand from premium glass ceramic consumers in Europe.
The December 2019 DFS estimated a project net present value of US$710 million, utilising petalite recovery of 31 percent.
“The locked cycle flotation testwork indicates significant potential to increase petalite recovery from 31 percent to greater 60 percent, across all Arcadia Project ore bodies contained within the reserve.
“With this substantial increase in petalite recovery, further work will now be undertaken to understand the full economic benefits resulting from this increase in recovery, particularly the increase in revenues from additional sales of premium priced ultra-low iron petalite,” Prospect said.
The premium pricing in the clear glass market is expected to be greater than the ceramics due to the higher lithia content, therefore potentially increasing the operating margins for the Arcadia Lithium Project.
Prospect’s managing director Sam Hosack said the “test work programme suggests improved economic potential of using flotation to produce a petalite concentrate.
“With Prospect’s ability to nearly double its petalite recovery, our operating cost per tonne of petalite and spodumene is expected to drop. Further work is required to quantify this saving.
“If we apply the expected tantalum credit and the premium priced petalite credit against the cost of spodumene production, then we can confidently aim to be the lowest cost spodumene producer in the world.”
Government has listed lithium as one of the key minerals expected to drive its grand vision of a US$12 billion mining industry, from about US$3.6 billion currently, by year 2023 and transforming the country to an upper middle-income economy by 2030. Zimbabwe is the fifth largest producer of lithium in the world and ranks first in Africa.
The country has only one producing mine, Bikita Minerals, while several others that include the most promising, Arcadia, are still under development.