Lithium Americas to restart construction at Argentine lithium project after COVID-19 interruptions

Lithium Americas plans to resume construction activities at its Caucharí-Olaroz lithium project in Argentina following an enforced shutdown in March due to measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The large-scale project, a joint venture with China’s Ganfeng Lithium, was suspended again in early July after two workers tested positive for the virus.

“We remain focused on protecting our workers and communities, while coordinating closely with the province of Jujuy to ensure we operate responsibly and safely as we begin to restart construction activities over the next few weeks,” said Lithium Americas president and chief executive Jon Evans.

The Vancouver-based miner said Caucharí-Olaroz was 47% complete at the end of June, with 75% or US$427 million of the planned capital committed and 54% ($304 million) spent.

Lithium Americas also confirmed Ganfeng’s move to take a 51% controlling stake in the project. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.

According to a 2019 feasibility study, the long-life mine will produce 40,000 tonnes of lithium per year before the end of 2022, however the company is now reviewing the impacts of the project’s suspensions on the timeline and budget.

While depressed lithium prices over the last 18 months have damaged investment in new projects, market researcher Roskill predicts that global lithium demand growth will remain strong at over 19.7% per year to 2030, driven by the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries for the automotive and energy storage sectors.