Australian lithium producer Pilbara Minerals (ASX: PLS) has announced a 39% increase in the mineral resource at its 100%-owned Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region to 308.9 million tonnes, reinforcing its position as the world’s most extensive hard-rock lithium operation.
The updated mineral resource, which replaces the prior June 2020 estimate, now comprises 308.9 million tonnes grading 1.14% lithium oxide and 105 ppm tantalum pentoxide, containing 3.5 million tonnes of lithium and 71.7 million pounds of tantalum, respectively.
The Pilgangoora operation is the world’s largest, independent hard-rock lithium operation, producing a spodumene and tantalite concentrate.
The upgraded mineral resource includes all the results from the 2021 exploration and development drilling campaign next to the historical Altura tenement boundary, together with the integration of the mineral resource for the former Altura lithium operations acquired earlier this year.
Pilbara said that additional resources defined from the 2021 exploration program would expand the mining envelope and pit inventory of the combined South Pit areas, with potential for further growth with ongoing drilling.
According to the company, the new integrated mineral resource will underpin a new ore reserve estimate for Pilgangoora, scheduled for completion by October this year.
“This landmark resource upgrade is another clear indication of Pilgangoora’s position as the world’s premier hard rock lithium asset. The scale of the endowment is quite remarkable, with the integration of the adjoining Ngungaju resource, combined with highly successful development and drilling programs, taking our resource inventory well and truly to the next level,” CEO Ken Brinsden said in a media statement.
Meanwhile, Mineral Resources (MRL) has exited its 5.4% shareholding in Pilbara Minerals Ltd, raising gross pre-tax proceeds of about A$328 million ($259m).
MRL became a substantial shareholder in Pilbara Minerals in October 2016 as part of an agreement to surrender offtake rights and a royalty that the company held over Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora project.