Following Pilbara Minerals' (ASX: PLS) mid-stream project update last Thursday, Ord Minnett has upgraded the emerging lithium and tantalum producer to Buy from Hold, with the target price increasing by 55% to $4.50.
After taking a robust lithium outlook the broker doubled its prior 2023 price forecast for spodumene to US$5,000/t.
Ord Minnett’s hydroxide and carbonate estimated have lifted 50% and 60%, respectively and the broker’s long-term forecast rises by 18%.
While Pilbara’s share price has struggled – relative to its peers – since the start of the year, Fairmont Equities believes that as one of the country’s largest producers, Pilbara may have finally turned the corner.
“The downtrend from earlier this year has now been broken and we believe that it is now starting a new uptrend which should see it shortly trade to all-time highs,” the broker noted.
Despite losing ground late January, Pilbara’s share price started to bounce higher mid-March and since then shares have risen from $2.57 to $3.61.
As one of Australia’s biggest hard-rock lithium miners from its Pilgangoora operation in the Pilbara, the company is planning to lift production of lithium-rich spodumene concentrate to more than 1m tonnes annually.
However, the company is also assessing new mid-stream value-added products, and last week announced plans to build a demonstration chemicals facility to produce a lithium phosphate salt product.
Undertaken by Lycopodium Minerals (ASX: LYL), Pilbara’s recently released Scoping Study provided preliminary support for the technical viability of constructing a demonstration-scale chemicals facility producing value-added lithium phosphate salts via an innovative refining process at the company’s Pilgangoora Operation in WA.
The estimated capital development cost of the envisaged demonstration plant is between $50-70m.
While Pilbara is encouraged by the results to date from the Scoping Study, contributing engineering is still considered to be at an early stage of development.
Outgoing Pilbara CEO Ken Brinsden believes the company is onto a winner with this project. But he suspects it will be a long-term play, especially given the small amount of lithium phosphate sold around the world today.
Meantime, Pilbara is enjoying record prices for its spodumene, and in the first half to December 31, achieved an average price of $US1250 a tonne for its spodumene concentrate.
Commenting recently on pricing, Brinsden was unambiguous in his expectation for it to remain strong.
“A mine takes five to seven years to get up and running. You can build a chemical plant and a car plant in less than two years … so it’s going to take quite some time for the mines to catch up.”
Pilbara Minerals share price appears to be regaining lost ground.
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