Sigma Lithium (TSX-V; NASDAQ: SGML) has started commissioning the first module of the production plant – the Greentech Plant – at its 100%-owned Grota do Cirilo lithium project in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
The Canadian miner said the dry module crushing circuit began operating on time and within budget, adding it expected the full plant to be up and running by February 2023.
Commissioning on the wet module dense media separation circuit is expected to also start in February and be completed by April, at which point the company intends to start commercial production, it said.
The Vancouver-based miner also announced that it commissioned the system that will pump water from Rio Jequitinhonha, which is 6km from the sewage treatment plant, to make the water suitable for the Greentech Plant.
In addition, Sigma noted its local partner Miazga Participações, has acquired a farm property with tropical forestry with the objective of preserving endangered tropical forestry that would be suppressed otherwise.
The miner will donate this area to the State Forestry Authority (IEF – Instituto Estadual de Florestas) for permanent preservation.
Sigma Lithium this month secured up to $100 million from shareholder Synergy Capital to fund the company until August 2023. The investment will help the company build the initial phase of a $155-million expansion of the battery-grade lithium mine.
During this first production phase, Grota do Cirilo is expected to generate up to 270,000 tonnes per year of high purity battery grade lithium concentrate, equal to about 36,700 tonnes per year of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE).
Based on the results of a study to triple battery-grade lithium concentrate production, Sigma says the project has the potential to churn out 768,000 tonnes (104,200 tpa LCE) from the second to the eighth year of operations.
Such capacity would make Grota do Cirilo fall just outside the world’s top five lithium producers in terms of output capacity after Albemarle, SQM, Ganfeng, Pilbara Minerals and Galaxy.
Total output will then drop to 491,000 tonnes in years nine to 13, Sigma Lithium said.
Sigma noted that the planned expansion could be achieved by the addition to the Greentech lithium plant of a single larger additional dense media separation module paired with a proportional crushing module.
The company’s co-CEO, Ana Cabral-Gardner, believes that Brazil has the potential to become a “green lithium powerhouse”.
Brazil is already a global case study in low carbon mobility, powering cars with ethanol, biofuels and natural gas. With Sigma Lithium in the mix, the country now has one of the few companies globally that has proven its ability to produce lithium in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Sigma has been producing environmentally sustainable battery-grade lithium concentrate on a pilot scale since 2018.