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Frontier's lithium dream stoked by test results

Laboratory results at TSX-listed Frontier Lithium’s PAK project in Ontario have shown the material meets “the most rigorous specifications of the lithium market”, the company said on January 11.
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Frontier Lithium's PAK project in Ontario, Canada

Nathan Richardson

The results are from the project's largest deposit, Spark.

The testing at the "tier one" project was part of Frontier's plan to enter the lithium supply market - which is dominated by Australia and South America - with what it called "North America's highest-grade, large tonnage hard-rock lithium resource in the form of a rare low-iron spodumene".

"These results meet and exceed chemical-grade requirements for further upgrading to produce compounds for the lithium-ion battery market - a global market that is anxious to source sustainable, low-iron, high-purity lithium material from a favourable jurisdiction," said Dr Naizhen Cao, vice president of technology at Frontier Lithium.

The mining junior was hoping to become a North American manufacturer of battery-quality lithium hydroxide, with production of 23,174 tonnes per year of LiOH-H2O.

The results, announced on January 11, came from a "locked cycle test" during a prefeasibility study, and ahead of a pilot plant campaign that is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks.

The locked-cycle floatation produced a lithium concentrate with a grade of 6.15% lithium oxide (Li2O) and a corresponding Li recovery of 78.1%. The sample included approximate zonation variability of the resource, with dilution at the average Spark resource grade of 1.59% Li2O and final iron oxide levels of 0.44% Fe2O3, Frontier said.

Cao said that the results added confidence to de-risking the project.

The PAK project consists of two deposits, PAK and Spark, as well as the Bolt and Pennock pegmatites. In 2020, Frontier produced a high-quality technical-grade spodumene concentrate from a PAK deposit sample with an average grade of 7.2% lithium oxide with low impurities and yields greater than 25%.

The plan for the project was to conduct piloting of mineral processing throughout this year, followed by a demonstration of the chemical process throughout 2023 and 2024. Construction would be commissioned in 2024-2025, and commercial production was set to begin in 2026-2028.

The project is based in the highly prospective Electric Avenue - which reportedly bears similar geological makeup to the world-renowned Greenbushes deposits in Western Australia.

Lithium prices have soared due to rapidly growing demand driven by the global push to decarbonise.

"Mine supply is struggling to keep pace with new gigafactory expansion and has also been hit by plant maintenance and output limits in China, alongside labour shortages in Australia," SP Angel said on January 12.

Global electric-vehicle sales rose to about 5.6 million last year, up from 3 million in 2020, and could grow to some 8 million this year, depending on semiconductor and battery availability, SP Angel said.