Lithium projects in Argentina suspended

Australian companies involved in Argentina’s lithium brine industry have suspended on-site work at projects until the end of March to comply with government’s coronavirus containment measures.

Brisbane-based Orocobre has moved its Olaroz lithium plant into care and maintenance mode and has suspended activities on developing the second stage of the plant.

The plant has sufficient stocks to meet orders until the end of April depending on the recommencement of the downstream operations of customers in Europe and Asia. Production at Olaroz, which totalled 6,679t of lithium carbonate in July-December 2019, is expected to resume a week after quarantine restrictions are lifted.

Supplies to customers will be remain dependent on the ability to transport product from Olaroz to ports in Argentina and Chile.

The development of the 10,000 t/yr Naraha lithium oxide plant in Japan – a joint venture between Orocobre and Toyota Tsusho Corporation – is unaffected although receiving equipment from China may be delayed.

Perth-based Galaxy Resources has suspended all but essential services work at its Sal de Vida project until April. The pilot programme at the project has advanced to the completion of pond lining and commissioning. Off-site engineering work is continuing.

The company’s Mt Cattlin hard rock lithium mine in Western Australia, which produced 191,570t of lithium concentrate in 2019, remains in operation although mining activities in 2020 are expected to be reduced by 60pc from 2019.

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