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Lithium Americas expands Thacker Pass resource, awaits final permit decision

The Thacker Pass lithium mine is host to the largest known lithium resource in the US. (Image from Lithium Americas)

Lithium Americas (TSX, NYSE: LAC) announced on Thursday that the mineral resource estimate for its Thacker Pass project has been updated from the 2018 model to include new drilling within the plan of operations and the south exploration area.

Thacker Pass, located in Humboldt County, Nevada, is considered to be the largest known lithium resource in the US. The project’s most recent technical report (2018 PFS) shows an open-pit lithium mine with annual production capacity of 60,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) over a 46-year mine life.

Based on additional drilling since then, as well as a change in cut-off grade, the Thacker Pass mineral resource has been increased to 13.7 million tonnes LCE grading 2,231 ppm Li in the measured and indicated category, plus 4.4 million tonnes LCE grading 2,112 ppm Li inferred.

The initial Phase 1 targeted capacity has been increased from 30,000-35,000 tpa to reflect the optimized mine plan and leaching efficiencies, with the proposed 3,000 tpd sulfuric acid plant unchanged, the company said.

A feasibility study is also being designed to incorporate a potential Phase 2 expansion scenario to target total capacity of 80,000 tpa. LAC expects to provide an update on timing of the study by early 2022.

“As the US electric vehicle supply chain continues to grow, we remain committed to developing Thacker Pass with all of our stakeholders’ interests in mind,” LAC CEO Jonathan Evans said in a news release.

“This includes ensuring we move the right project forward to align Thacker Pass with the growing needs of our potential customers and strategic partners,” Evans said.

All key state permits for the potential lithium mine are expected to be released for public comment in Q4 2021. At the federal level, a court hearing on the appeal of the record of decision is expected to take place in February 2022, with the ruling to follow shortly thereafter.

An integrated pilot plant, expected to be operational in H1 2022, is also in the works. This is designed to support ongoing optimization work, confirm certain assumptions in the design and operational parameters, and provide product samples for potential customers.

“With Thacker Pass moving closer towards construction, in Argentina our team remains focused on bringing the Caucharí-Olaroz lithium brine project online in the next 12 months as the largest new lithium carbonate operation in over 20 years,” Evans added.

Shares of Lithium Americas rose 5.2% by 11:40 a.m. in Toronto. The Vancouver-based lithium miner has a market capitalization of C$3.2 billion ($2.5bn).