Liontown achieves first ore through crushing circuit at Kathleen Valley

In a huge milestone for a world-class hard rock lithium project, Liontown Resources has achieved first ore through the crushing circuit at Kathleen Valley in Western Australia. Commissioning of the dry plant commenced in late March with the team energising equipment and conducting thorough checks of the systems to ensure everything works in accordance with the design.

The team will now gradually ramp up the volume of ore through the crusher to build a stockpile of crushed ore. By starting the commissioning process with the crusher, Liontown says it is not only testing the equipment but will have clean ore ready for feeding into the wet plant. It is getting closer to first production, on schedule for mid-2024.

Liontown also recently shared a detailed Q1 2024 activities report from the mine on April 29. The Kathleen Valley Lithium Project is now over 85% complete, with commissioning of the dry plant underway. Mining activities progressed to plan with underground development reaching ~1,900 m as the stockpile of ore from the open pit continued to grow.

Total material movement (TMM) for the quarter was 1.1 Mbcm, supporting ore stockpile build ahead of production and providing waste material for the Run of Mine (ROM) pad and Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) construction. TMM of 6.4 Mbcm has been achieved cumulatively since the commencement of open pit mining in January 2023. Ore hygiene remains a clear and important focus for mine operations with high quality, low impurity ore for milling continuing to be stockpiled on the ROM pad. In addition, material identified for ore sorting product (OSP) is also being stockpiled to supplement ROM material for commissioning and plant ramp-up activities

The ore sorters arrived on site and construction of the OSP pad commenced adjacent to the ROM pad. Ore sorting is planned to commence in the June 2024 quarter. Clearing of the OSP pad was completed and the construction of the ore sorting plant progressed in the March quarter. Axis Crushing Services commenced crushing and screening of the OSP material to feed the sorting circuit, with commissioning to begin imminently. This crushed, screened and sorted material will in turn provide supplementary mill-feed to the process plant.

Underground, a total of 1,535 development metres was achieved during the quarter by contractor Byrnecut, which is carrying out both the development and mining works, continuing the strong trajectory of progress since the commencement of underground mining in the prior quarter. Equipment and personnel mobilised to site as planned for this phase of development. Metres advanced and ground conditions experienced continue to be in line with the mine plan and expectations. Byrnecut has deployed Sandvik 21 t-payload Toro™ LH621i loaders equipped with AutoMine® technology, three Sandvik DD422i development drills with Dual Controls and a Sandvik DS422i cable bolter. Epiroc has supplied a fleet of Epiroc Minetruck MT65 S mining trucks.

Pastefill plant design progressed in accordance with schedule and is now 24% complete. Structural design was prioritised during the period. Progress continued on all concrete works on site, and tank builds commenced. The focus throughout the quarter was on concrete, with 1,030 m3 poured bringing the total to 1,575 m3. Tank welding and installation has begun with first steel erection occurring post quarter end. The Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) cell 1 continues to be filled with raw water from onsite bores and seasonal rainfall, with the water to be used to support start-up processing operations. The majority of tailings discharge header and dropper pipework has also now been installed.

Strong progress was achieved at the process plant throughout the quarter with installation of structural steel and platework work largely complete. Piping and electrical works have become the principal focus and will remain so through to completion. Overall, design, procurement and construction of the process plant was 90% complete at quarter end. Multiple pieces of equipment, including the crusher, have been run.

Progress on remaining key work fronts during the quarter in the wet plant included flotation and magnetic separation building steelwork, piping and electrical installation; belt filtration piping installation and facility roof lifted into place; progressing flotation, magnetic separation, pipe-racks, infill piping, and bolted tank installation works, all of which are on track to enable commissioning in-line with first production target. Concurrent wet plant commissioning, starting with the SAG mill, is on track to commence from the next quarter.

Construction of the 95 MW Hybrid Power Plant progressed well throughout the March quarter, with the solar farm and thermal power station both nearing completion. Commissioning and electrical completion of the 30,780 solar panels commenced, with energisation commencing in April. Erection of the third wind turbine also neared completion by quarter end, with the remaining two turbines planned to commence in the June quarter.

Diesel sets are online, first delivery of liquified natural gas (LNG) was received and supported live testing of Jenbacher LNG gensets. These energy sources will progressively be brought online from next quarter, in-line with plant commissioning requirements. From next quarter, renewables are expected to be supplying part of the power for construction and commissioning activities, as well as feeding the camp and underground mining infrastructure.