Sigma Lithium to start civil works at vast Brazilian project

Construction at the Grota do Cirilo lithium project in Brazil. (Image courtesy of Sigma Lithium.)

Sigma Lithium (TSX-V; NASDAQ: SGML) has finished building the production plant foundation for Phase 1of its Grota do Cirilo lithium project in Brazil, the largest hard rock lithium deposit in the Americas.

The Canadian miner will now move to civil works, which will be followed by plant mechanical structure works in June, it said. 

The company said that Phase 1 of the production plant has been designed to produce up to 240,000 tonnes per year of lithium concentrate. That’s 9% more than its original production plan for the 1.2 billion-real project, which would be about $257 million at today’s exchange rate. 

Sigma lithium plans to ramp up plant production to 460,000 tonnes per year — or 66,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent — in phase II, which is slated to begin by the end of 2023.

Grota do Cirilo is the largest lithium hard rock deposit in the Americas, and the company has been producing concentrate of the battery metal at the site on a pilot scale since 2018. 

The Vancouver-based miner expects to start production at Grota do Cirilo in the fourth quarter of this year, joining the ranks of commercial lithium producers just as prices of the metal skyrocket as supply struggles to keep up with electric-vehicle demand growth.

Leader EV maker Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) recently inked two supply deals with developers of future projects in Australia, while Albemarle (NYSE: ALB) and its partner Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN) said this week they are speeding up the restart of their jointly owned Wodgina lithium mine in Australia.

Atlantic supplier

The proposed mine would be powered by a hydroelectric project located 50km (31 miles) away from the site and serve what Sigma dubs the emerging Atlantic supply chain for batteries and electric vehicles manufactured in North America and Europe.  

Sigma expects a bifurcation in the market as growth outside of China accelerates with environmental factors including water, energy use and tailings becoming increasingly important to how producers are assessed.

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.