Lithium Americas Announces 40,000 TPA Feasibility Study for the Caucharí-Olaroz Lithium Project

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Sept. 30, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Lithium Americas Corp. (TSX: LAC) (NYSE: LAC) (“Lithium Americas” or the “Company”) is pleased to provide results of a 40,000 tonnes per annum (“tpa”) definitive feasibility study (“40,000 tpa DFS” or “DFS”) on the Caucharí-Olaroz lithium project (“Caucharí-Olaroz” or the “Project”) currently under construction in Jujuy Province, Argentina. Caucharí-Olaroz is 100% owned by Minera Exar S.A. (“Minera Exar”), a 50/50 joint venture between Lithium Americas and Ganfeng Lithium Co., Ltd. (“Ganfeng Lithium”). Lithium Americas and Ganfeng Lithium have authorized Minera Exar to proceed with the plan to produce 40,000 tpa of battery-quality lithium carbonate (“Li2CO3”) as outlined in the DFS.
Unless otherwise stated, all figures are quoted in U.S. dollars (“$“) and are reported on a 100% equity project basis.Highlights:40,000 tpa of Li2CO3 production for 40 years. Updated Mineral Reserve supports annual production in excess of 40,000 tpa of battery-quality Li2CO3 for 40 years.Construction capital cost of $565 million. Construction capital costs include a contingency, over $200 million in capital already committed in contracts and purchase orders of which $105 million in capital spent as of June 30, 2019.Operating costs of $3,576/t for battery-quality lithium carbonate. Operating costs reflect process optimizations designed to consistently achieve more stringent purity specifications currently required by battery material customers.Fully-funded to production. Lithium Americas 50% share of Minera Exar is expected be fully-funded with $221 million available under the Company’s credit and loan facilities and net proceeds from the $160 million Project investment by Ganfeng Lithium.First production targeted by early 2021. Construction on the 40,000 tpa Project is underway and expected to be completed by the end of 2020 with first production expected in early 2021.Conference call and webcast. Conference call and webcast scheduled for Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at 9:00 am EST to discuss the results of the DFS and the Company’s recent developments.The results of the DFS are provided in Table 1 on a 100% equity project basis:1.     Assumes lower price of $8,000/t and $10,000/t in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
2.     Total capital costs of $565 million include $105 million in capital costs sunk as of June 30, 2019 excluded from NPV.
3.     Refers to a non-IFRS financial measure. Please see the discussion included at the end of this press release under “Non-IFRS Financial Measures”.
“With construction underway and funding in place, the results of the 40,000 tpa DFS further supports Caucharí-Olaroz as a scalable, high-purity source of lithium carbonate for battery material customers,” commented Jon Evans, President and CEO of Lithium Americas. “We are thankful for the hard work from the team at Minera Exar, the support from the government of Jujuy, and our 50/50 joint venture partner, Ganfeng Lithium, for their financial and technical contributions towards optimizing the process design and securing key equipment for the lithium carbonate plant.”“Minera Exar is committed to building Caucharí-Olaroz to be one of the most environmentally responsible lithium projects globally,” commented Gabriel Rubacha, CEO of Minera Exar. “The 40,000 tpa DFS represents the first of future potential long-term investments in Caucharí-Olaroz for the benefit of the local communities, employees and Jujuy Province.”Project DetailsCaucharí-Olaroz is located in Jujuy Province in north west Argentina. The Project is situated in the Salar de Olaroz and Salar de Caucharí, adjacent to Orocobre Ltd.’s Olaroz facility, which has been in production since 2015. The Project is well serviced by nearby infrastructure including major paved highways which connect to the port of Antofagasta in Chile, a high-voltage transmission line, an adjacent 300MW solar project and a gas pipeline.In 2012, Minera Exar granted a conditional right to Jujuy Energia y Mineria Sociedad del Estado (“JEMSE”), a mining and energy investment company owned by the government of Jujuy Province in Argentina, to acquire an 8.5% equity interest in Minera Exar and provide management services as required to develop the Project.The 40,000 tpa DFS includes a conventional, commercially-proven brine processing technology optimized from the salar in partnership with Ganfeng Lithium to produce battery-quality Li2CO3 that can be used to meet the specifications of battery material producers in manufacturing cathode and electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries. The DFS follows the 2017 feasibility study on a 25,000 tpa Li2CO3 project (“25,000 tpa DFS”).Minera Exar has more than 250 employees and approximately 500 contractors at the Project. Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.Construction of the evaporation ponds commenced in Q1 2018 and is approximately 60% completed. Brine from production wells started filling ponds in Q4 2018. The liming purification process at the ponds is expected to commence in Q2 2020.A significant amount of long-lead time equipment purchases and construction contracts have been awarded. Contractors for the production wells, ponds and liners, civil works (roads and well platforms), permanent camp, concrete works and structural steel (buildings) are engaged at the Project site. Equipment components for the lithium carbonate plant are expected to begin arriving to the site later this year. 
CBJ Newsmakers