Prospect Resources, the ASX-listed firm developing Arcadia lithium mine at Goromonzi, says its ultra-low iron petalite product has progressed through the initial qualification process with two of the world’s largest glass-ceramic manufacturers, both based in Europe.
Prospect provided both manufacturers with samples for laboratory testing and analysis. “The outcomes from their analysis is that the ultra-low iron petalite meets the glass-ceramic market’s stringent technical specifications,” the company said in a notice on Monday.
In the glass-ceramics market, ultra-low iron petalite is a key lithium ingredient in dark glass, comprising up to 90% of the inputs.
The next steps in the product qualification process are the development of a pilot trial manufacturing product in a large kiln and a full test in the production kiln.
Prospect expects larger volumes of the product in 2020 after the pit is opened up and the pilot plant is constructed.
“This plant will continuously test future ores before they reach the production plant to ensure process efficiencies are implemented prior to ore being delivered to the plant. All customers have requested additional samples to continue their testing programmes, to further enhance their mix-designs for feed products,” Prospect says.
Prospect anticipates being one of only two mines in the world capable of producing ultra-low iron petalite. Demand for ultra-low iron petalite is expected to be spread equally between Europe and Asia, with a supply deficit expected to remain.
The company also reported that its ultra-low iron petalite product has met specification testing for ceramic production in Japan and China.
“A key attraction from customers to Prospect is that the Company can provide a long-term reliable supply of product both in terms of monthly volumes and consistent product quality, underpinned by Arcadia being a lowest quartile operating cost producer,” said the firm.
In August, Prospect announced that a report by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, an independent market analysis firm, forecast that Prospect will supply 10% of low iron lithium over Arcadia’s 12 year life of mine.
Beyond petalite, Prospect last December shipped Africa’s first battery-grade lithium carbonate, a compound that is in high demand for use in batteries. The 100kg samples were produced at Prospect’s pilot plant in Kwekwe, which the company is reconfiguring to manufacture lithium hydroxide.
Lithium hydroxide, used in the manufacture of battery cathodes, fetches a higher price than lithium carbonate as it is higher demand on the world electric energy market than the carbonate.
In its latest quarterly activity report, Prospect said it was in talks with a number of entities, including African development banks, to fund the development of Arcadia.
“Prospect has screened a number of the potential financial partners and is progressing detailed discussions with a select group that we believe are appropriate financial partners for the project. The company believes that these proposals are currently incomplete and require further development before they would be able to be announced, although they indicate there is appetite for financing tier one greenfield lithium mining projects in Africa,” said Prospect.