Today’s quarterly update by Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN) serves as a reminder to the market why brokers [generally speaking] like what the unorthodox mining and mining services company – which combines iron ore, lithium and a crushing operations - is doing.
While there’s lots to like within today’s mining activities report, the standout is the arguably the joint decision with its partner, Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd (Ganfeng), to optimise recovery of lithium units from production at Mt Marion and to upgrade the Mt Marion processing facilities.
Lithium still only represents a tiny component of Mineral Resources’ total profits.
But in response to significant strengthening of global demand [for lithium] plus record pricing, the company’s expansion plans include a doubling of spodumene processing capacity at Mount Marion lithium mine to around 900 ktpa by the end of 2022, after capital investment of $120m.
The company’s share of the expanded equivalent 6% spodumene concentrate (650 ktpa) equals around 100 ktpa of LCE (by lithium units). By comparison, Allkem Ltd’s (ASX: AKE) targeted FY22 production capacity is 50 ktpa LCE (on a 100%), and FY26 capacity is 145-to-158 ktpa LCE.
What’s noteworthy here is that this large processing facility coverts spodumene to lithium hydroxide, which is expected to be infinitely more profitable than revenue from spodumene production alone.
At Wodgina the production restart of processing Train 1 is also ahead of schedule, now expected in May 2022. And processing Train 2 is now scheduled to restart in July 2022.
Mining Services production volumes of 63.4Mt were 16% higher than the prior corresponding period and the business remains on target to meet FY22 production guidance of 275-290Mt
The iron ore business remains on track to meet FY22 guidance for export shipments
The average realised iron ore price for the quarter was US$101.31 per dry metric tonne (dmt), 60% higher quarter-on-quarter
Significant engineering and detailed design work progressed at the Ashburton Iron Ore Project
Mt Marion remains on target to meet FY22 guidance of 450-475kt and costs of A$570-615/dmt
The company took possession of its 51% share of the Mt Marion spodumene concentrate offtake in February 2022
The company signed a non-binding letter agreement with Albemarle Corporation (Albemarle) to explore a potential expansion of the MARBL Lithium Joint Venture (MARBL JV)
Wodgina shipped 22k dmt of spodumene concentrate from existing stockpiles during the quarter at an achieved price of US$2,200/dmt
Well testing of the Lockyer Deep-1 conventional gas exploration well in the onshore Perth Basin was completed
Mineral Resources has consistently outperformed the materials index over the past year.
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