2014

Canada Lithium Completes Updated Feasibility Study; Significant Increase in Estimated Project Economics

TSX: CLQ; U.S. OTC: CLQMF

Highlights:

  • Estimated NPV increases to $318M from $190M, estimated IRR rises to 32% from 22%
  • Estimated average annual EBITDA increases to approximately $77M from $55M
  • Feasibility Study incorporates positive economic impact of co-products
  • Construction remains on time and on budget

TORONTO, Oct. 11, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada Lithium Corp. (TSX: CLQ) (U.S. OTC: CLQMF) announced today the results of an Updated Feasibility Study for the development of the Québec Lithium mine and lithium carbonate processing facility currently under construction near Val d'Or, Québec. The full results of the study will be disclosed in a National Instrument 43-101(NI 43-101) Technical Report within 45 days of this press release. The updated study demonstrates the estimated financial benefits of lithium hydroxide (LiOH) and sodium sulphate (Na2SO4) co-product production, currently proposed for Q3, 2014 and also incorporates the Company's debt facility arrangements now in place to fund the construction of the initial lithium carbonate processing plant.

The Québec Lithium operation will consist of an open-pit mine and processing plant with commencement of commercial production expected in the first quarter of 2013 and a mine design life of approximately 14 years. The planned annual output for the project remains at approximately 20,000 tonnes per year of battery-grade lithium carbonate (Li2CO3), with the potential to produce an additional 2,000 tonnes per year of battery-grade lithium hydroxide and up to 30,000 tonnes per year of sodium sulphate. The key indicators from this Updated Feasibility Study are shown below (all dollar amounts in this press release are expressed in U.S. currency).

     
  Updated
Feasibility
Previous
Feasibility*
NPV (pre-tax; 8% discount) at flat $5,875/t Li2CO3 revenue $318M $190M
NPV (pre-tax; 8% discount) based on Roskill market study $456M N/A
Initial Construction Capital Cost $207M $207M
LiOH and Na2SO4 Capital Cost $20M N/A
Avg. Opex ($/t Li2CO3 inclusive LiOH and Na2SO4 Opex) $3,194 N/A
Avg. Opex ($/t Li2CO3 net of LiOH and Na2SO4 credits) $2,328 $3,164
Avg. annual EBITDA with co-products $77M $55M
IRR flat $5,875/t Li2CO3 revenue vs. Roskill market study (%) 32 vs. 37 22
Simple Payback (years) <4 4
Avg. Annual Li2CO3 production 20,000t 20,000t
Avg. Annual LiOH production (2015) 2,000t N/A
Avg. Annual Na2SO4 production (2015) 30,000t N/A

* See press release dated June 13, 2011.

The Québec Lithium Project as now updated with the addition of lithium hydroxide and sodium sulphate co-product production and sales has an estimated approximate pre-tax Net Present Value (NPV) of between $318 million and $456 million (at an 8% discount rate) dependent on lithium pricing. Historically, the Company has used a flat $5,875 per tonne for battery-grade lithium carbonate revenue and NPV calculations; however, recent price increases by the major lithium carbonate producers have seen October 2012 spot prices in China increase to approximately $6,600/t, according to Asia Metals. As a result, the higher NPV calculation of $456 million utilises the lithium market outlook 2013 to 2020 completed in September 2012 by independent marketing consultant Roskill Information Services (U.K.), as shown in the Market Review section below. Similarly, Project Internal Rate of Return (IRR) has now increased to 37% (under the Roskill pricing forecast) or 32% (based on the flat $5,875-per-tonne pricing, which was drawn from a 2010 Roskill lithium carbonate study and used as the base case in the Updated Feasibility Study) as opposed to the earlier 22%. The simple payback period is less than four years. The Updated Feasibility Study incorporates lithium hydroxide prices at $7,500 per tonne and sodium sulphate at $120 per tonne.

The NI 43-101 Technical Report which the Company will file within 45 days of this press release in connection with the Updated Feasibility Study will replace and supersede the technical report dated June 10, 2011 entitled "Feasibility Study Update - NI 43-101 Technical Report - Québec Lithium Project - La Corne Township, Québec", which was filed on the SEDAR website maintained by the Canadian Securities Administrators at www.sedar.com on June 21, 2011 and, when filed, will constitute the current technical report on the Québec Lithium Project.

Project Introduction

The Québec Lithium Project, owned 100% by Canada Lithium Corp., is in La Corne Township, approximately 60 km. north of Val d'Or, a mining-friendly community with over 75 years of mining history and a population of some 32,000. Access to the site is by paved road from Val d'Or. The project has access to significant support infrastructure, including paved roads, rail access and high voltage power, with electricity costs in Québec among the lowest in North America.

The Québec Lithium property hosts one of the larger known hard-rock lithium deposits in North America. The spodumene (Li2O) mineralisation is hosted within a number of steeply dipping pegmatite dykes. An updated Mineral Resource estimate was prepared by AMC Mining Consultants (Canada) Ltd. (AMC) in late 2011 following the completion of a drilling program in August 2011 and an NI 43-101 compliant Mineral Resource estimate was announced December 6, 2011. The following tables present the summary of lithium resources reported at various lithium oxide (Li2O) cut-off grades.

Table 1: Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources
  Measured (M) Indicated (I) Total (M+I)
Cut-off (%) Tonnes Li2O % Tonnes Li2O % Tonnes Li2O %
0.6 8,028,000 1.11 33,527,000 1.09 41,556,000 1.09
0.8 6,914,000 1.18 26,325,000 1.19 33,239,000 1.19

Table 2: Inferred Mineral Resources
  Inferred
Cut-off (%) Tonnes Li2O %
0.6 17,766,000 1.10
0.8 13,757,000 1.21


Notes: Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.
Tonnes rounded to the nearest thousand.  The AMC mineral resource figures are constrained by a pit shell. The tables show a range of cut-off grades; the preferred 0.8% cut-off is in bold. Although expected to be accretive to the project, the Inferred Mineral Resources are not included in the Updated Feasibility Study economic analysis in accordance with NI 43-101.

Mining Operations

The open-pit mining operation will use conventional drill/blast and truck/shovel methods with a fleet of hydraulic excavators and haul trucks and an ancillary fleet of dozers, graders and water trucks. The mining design indicates a total of 20.3 million tonnes of ore to be treated over the planned approximate 14-year mine life. (The actual engineered design is 14.9 years but that has been optimised to approximately 14 years in the project cashflow projections to allow for ore rejection from optometric sorting.) The Proven and Probable Mineral Reserve estimates were previously prepared by BBA Inc. in June 2011 (press release dated June 13, 2011), based upon a resource block model provided by AMC in June 2011. The mine plan, based on the December 2011 NI 43-101 prepared by AMC, has not been updated as the 14.9-year engineered pit design and the reserve estimate are still current. The Mineral Reserve estimate used an ore recovery factor of 80% and a mining dilution rate of 20% at an average dilution grade of 0.05%. Life-of-Mine (LOM) stripping ratio is approximately 5.5:1.

Table 3: Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves
(Cut-off grade of 0.60% Li2O)
Category Tonnes Li2O %
Proven 6,605,000 0.92
Probable 10,459,000  0.95
Total 17,064,000  0.94


The mining schedule uses a declining cut-off grade strategy starting with a cut-off grade of 0.90% Li2O in Year 1 and Year 2, followed by a cut-off grade of 0.60% Li2O in Years 3 to Year 12.

Table 4: Low-Grade Ore
Category Tonnes Li2O %
Proven 1,199,000 0.39
Probable 2,072,000  0.38
Total 3,271,000  0.38


Stockpiled low-grade ore between 0.25% Li2O and 0.60% Li2O will be reclaimed from Year 13 to the end of the mine life.

Processing

The processing plant comprises a three-stage crushing circuit followed by grinding and flotation to produce an Li2O spodumene concentrate. The concentrate is subsequently kiln-heated to produce a beta spodumene concentrate that then undergoes hydrometallurgical treatment, filtration, cleaning and packaging to produce a battery-grade 99.5% lithium carbonate final product. The integrated plant has been designed to initially process 2,950 tonnes of ore per day, increasing to 3,800 tonnes per day subsequent to the commissioning stage of the project. The project's construction capital costs remain unchanged from the previously announced $206.7 million, with GENIVAR Inc. in charge of the Engineering Procurement Construction and Management (EPCM).

Over the past 12 months, the Company has undertaken various metallurgical improvement programs to optimize ore recovery and evaluate the production of by-products and co-products from the process, including testwork on photometric sorting and the production of lithium hydroxide and sodium sulphate.

Photometric sorting tests were carried out in Germany on representative ore and waste samples from the deposit, with the intention of designing a photometric sorting circuit at the primary crushing stage. Potentially, this would increase the grade of ore entering the plant, reduce the waste material treated in the flotation circuit, increase lithium carbonate production and reduce processing costs. According to a proposed schedule, equipment installation would commence after Q3, 2013.

In response to emerging battery technologies in North America and Asia, Canada Lithium is also proposing installation of a 2,000 tonne-per-year lithium hydroxide circuit by mid 2014, subject to capital funding availability and market conditions. Current prices for lithium hydroxide are approximately $7,500/t. Metallurgical testwork and pilot plant membrane electrolysis were conducted at SGS Lakefield on a lithium sulphate solution produced from the Company's lithium sulphate circuit, as well as third-party lithium sulphate, using a multi-compartment cell. The process has the potential to produce material suitable for value-added battery-grade applications with minimal capital spending (see Table 5).

The current plant design includes a sodium sulphate circuit producing a filtrate precipitate of a low-grade salt product. This product has no commercial value and would normally be sold (at cost) or neutralised. But over the past two years, the Company has conducted various tests to optimise sodium sulphate recoveries and the recovery of a commercial product. The pilot plant testwork and engineering design have demonstrated that the salt product can be upgraded to commercial-grade sodium sulphate through a series of precipitation and filtration stages. The filtrate would be pumped to a series of evaporators before being treated through purification stages and dried to produce anhydrous sodium sulphate. The plant has the potential to produce up to 30,000 tonnes per year of this material, which could be sold as a chemical-grade by-product to the chemical industry. Sodium sulphate is used as a filler material in the detergent industry and can sell for up to $150/t in the U.S. The Company proposes to construct this circuit by mid-2014, subject to capital funding availability (see Table 5) and market conditions.

Capital Costs

The construction capital costs include an initial fleet comprising a seven-cubic-metre backhoe excavator and three 100-ton haul trucks, building up to seven haul trucks at full production. In addition, there is an ancillary mobile fleet including dozers, graders and front-end loaders. The initial capital cost of the equipment is estimated to be $11.3 million. The majority of the mining equipment is already on site, supplied by Caterpillar Inc. under five-year lease terms. Pre-stripping costs have been capitalized until the commencement of commissioning and first ore production.

The metallurgical processing facility capital cost estimate is based on an on-site processing plant comprising all new equipment, producing battery-grade lithium carbonate.

The capital cost estimates for infrastructure, Tailings Management Facility (TMF) construction, EPCM fees, owner's costs and general administration costs were determined by independent consultants and Canada Lithium personnel.

Table 5: Construction Capital Costs
Category 2012 Budget
($000)
2013 Estimate
($000)
Mining equipment 11,251 -
Pre strip 2,000 -
  Sub-total Mining 13,251 -
Crushing/Flotation plant 43,808 -
Hydrometallurgical plant 88,718 -
Photometric sorter 5,000 -
LiOH circuit - 5,990
Na2SO4 circuit - 7,210
  Sub-total Processing 137,526 13,200
TMF, Infrastructure, Other 16,935 -
Gas pipeline - 5,000
EPCM/Owner cost 27,363 -
Contingency 11,625 1,800
  Sub-total Other 55,923 6,800
Total $206,700 $20,000


The LOM sustaining capital requirement is $32.8M. The accuracy of the 2013 capital expenditure is estimated at +/-15%.

Operating Cost Estimate

The mining and processing operating costs are for an operation achieving average annual production of approximately 20,000 tonnes of battery-grade, 99.5% lithium carbonate. The estimated average operating cost for the mine, primary and secondary processing facilities are presented below.

Table 6: Overall Project Operating Costs
Category $/t (milled) $/t (Li2CO3)
Mining 16.73 1,024
Crush/Grind/Float 8.52 521
LiOH, Na2SO4, sorting 3.11 191
Hydrometallurgical 21.85 1,338
Administration 1.96 120
Total 52.17 3,194


The average operating cost estimates reflect the use of a natural gas fuel source in the spodumene conversion kiln. However, during the first two years of operations the kiln will be fuelled by propane gas, with resulting operating costs marginally higher. Negotiations with a natural gas supplier are under way, and sustaining capital cost estimates include sufficient funds for the gas line.  (Operating and capital cost estimates are expressed within +/- 15% accuracy.)

Project Economics

The project is currently estimated to have a simple payback period of less than four years. Cash flow projections reflect the Company's current debt funding arrangements and equity funding, opex and capex (as illustrated above), which incorporate the addition of lithium hydroxide and sodium sulphate co-product production. The resulting economic analysis indicates a pre-tax NPV, discounted at 8%, of between $318 million and $456 million as shown below. The projected pre-tax IRR is 32%.

Table 7: Sensitivity Analysis
Discount Rate Base Case NPV
($ millions) at flat $5,875/t
NPV($ millions) based on
2012 Roskill forecast
0% 750 1,058
3% 545 772
5% 440 626
8% 318 456
10% 254 369


Base case LOM revenue is estimated at $1.9 billion and includes approximately $250 million of revenue from the projected sales of lithium hydroxide and sodium sulphate. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) are estimated to be approximately US$1.0 billion. A C$/US$ exchange rate of 1:1 has been used for the 2011 and 2012 construction phase of the project and 1.1:1 over the remaining life of the mine.

Market Review

The current China spot price for battery-grade lithium carbonate is approximately $6,600/tonne (www.asiametals.com at an exchange rate of 0.158RMB/$US). Roskill Information Services (U.K.) has provided an annual price forecast through to 2020, based on its analysis of the lithium market.

 
Roskill forecast average annual prices for Li2CO3 to 2020 ($/t)
  2013f 2014f 2015f 2016f 2017f 2018f 2019f 2020f
Battery-grade:                
Low 5,500 5,500 5,750 6,000 6,000 6,250 6,500 7,000
High 6,500 6,500 6,500 6,750 7,000 7,500 8,000 8,500
Average 6,000 6,000 6,125 6,375 6,500 6,875 7,250 7,750


The current dominant lithium battery technologies, such as lithium cobalt oxide (LCO), lithium manganese oxide (LMO) and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC), typically use lithium carbonate as the main source of lithium cathode material. However, in recent years lithium hydroxide has been increasingly incorporated into such battery applications as lithium iron phosphate, (LFP). Current demand estimates for carbonate versus hydroxide is approximately 90%:10%, with lithium hydroxide demand growing slightly faster than lithium carbonate. Battery-grade lithium hydroxide commands a premium pricing when compared to lithium carbonate, typically in the range of $1,500 to $2,000/t higher, with the current price of hydroxide approximately $7,500/t. Sodium sulphate is used as a filler material in the detergent industry and can sell for up to $150/t in the U.S.

Community and Environment

As part of the environmental program, local communities are being involved in the project development process. The first public meetings were held in January 2010 and on-going meetings have been held, and will continue to be held, with all local communities.

In late May 2011, the Company received a construction permit from the local Municipality of La Corne, for construction of surface service infrastructure at the Québec Lithium Project. Since that time, the Company has also received a number of other Provincial licences and permits including the Mining License and the TMF location and construction permits. Achieving the year-end commissioning schedule is dependent on draw-down of the project debt facility and receipt of a limited number of other permits.

Project Timetable

Site construction commenced in September, 2011 and the project is currently approximately 71% completed. All major process equipment, such as secondary crusher, fine ore bin, grinding circuit, flotation cells have been installed. In addition, the pyrometallurgical kiln and electrical sub-station have now been installed. Hydro Québec will complete the high-voltage line to site within the next month. Pre-stripping of the deposit will commence in early November, following receipt of final approvals. Installation of the hydrometallurgical circuit is currently under way. The project remains on track for year-end commissioning of the spodumene circuit and first lithium carbonate shipments in March 2013. The timetable is as follows:

- December 2012:   spodumene circuit commissioning
- January  2013:   lithium carbonate circuit commissioning
- March 2013:   first lithium carbonate shipment
- October 2013:   ramp up to 90% design throughput


Process Optimization Testwork

1. Spodumene

As part of the project's mineral processing improvement strategy and in order to take advantage of the North American and European spodumene markets, optimisation testwork is under way with samples of spodumene concentrates to finalise flow sheets for a commercial spodumene off-take circuit within the processing plant.

2. Lithium Metal

In addition, the Company has initiated metallurgical testwork at SGS Lakefield on the further downstream processing of lithium products produced from the plant to produce battery-grade, 99.9% lithium metal. It is proposed to complete a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) for a 2,000tpa lithium metal plant, towards Q3, 2013. Lithium metal has a number of applications, such as cathode materials for lithium metal polymer batteries and some of the newer lithium-air battery designs. In addition, it is increasingly used in alloys with aluminum in the aerospace industry. It is understood that 99.9% lithium metal currently sells for up to $60,000/t.

Potential capital and operating expenditures and revenues from lithium metal and spodumene have not been included in the Updated Feasibility Study.

Report Filing

An NI 43-101 Technical Report on this Updated Feasibility Study will be filed on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and at www.canadalithium.com within 45 days of the date of this press release.

Qualified Persons

The Updated Feasibility Study Technical Report is being compiled and prepared by Technology Management Group Inc. under the supervision of Peter Woodhouse, P.Eng., a registered professional engineer in the Province of Ontario and an independent Qualified Person as defined under NI 43-101. Mr. Woodhouse has read and approved the contents of this news release.

The AMC mineral resource estimate was prepared by Dinara Nussipakynova, P.Geo, Senior Geologist, AMC, under the supervision of J. Morton Shannon, P.Geo., Geology Manager and Principal Geologist, AMC.  Ms. Nussipakynova and Mr. Shannon are independent Qualified Persons as defined under NI 43-101. Mr. Shannon has read and approved the contents of this release.

Mitchell E. Lavery, P.Geo., Vice President, Exploration, Canada Lithium Corp., is the Company's Qualified Person for the Québec Lithium Project in accordance with NI 43-101.  Mr. Lavery has read and approved the contents of this news release.

The mineral reserve estimate and mine plan was prepared by BBA Inc., under the supervision of Colin Hardie, P.Eng., Engineering Manager.  Mr. Hardie is an independent Qualified Person as defined by NI 43-101. Mr. Hardie has read and approved the contents of this release related to the mineral reserve estimate and mine plan.

The Measured, Indicated and Inferred Mineral Resource and Proven and Probable Mineral Reserve estimates in this press release were prepared in accordance with the Canadian Institute of Mining (CIM) "Definition Standards on Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves" adopted by the CIM Council on December 11, 2005, and the CIM "Estimation of Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves Best Practice Guidelines," adopted by CIM Council on November 23, 2003, in compliance with NI 43-101 guidelines and using an inverse distance squared interpolation method.

About Canada Lithium Corp.

The Company holds a 100% interest in the Québec Lithium Project near Val d'Or, the geographical heart of the Québec mining industry. It is in the midst of building an open-pit mine and processing plant on-site with capacity to produce approximately 20,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate annually. Metallurgical tests have produced battery-grade lithium carbonate samples. Lithium carbonate is used in lithium-ion batteries that power consumer electronics (laptops, iPads, etc.) power-grid storage facilities and electric and hybrid vehicles.  The Company trades under the symbol CLQ on the TSX and on the U.S. OTCQX under the symbol CLQMF.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information

This press release contains "forward-looking information" within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation. Forward-looking information is based upon the Company's beliefs, estimates and opinions as at the date of this press release, which the Company believes are reasonable, but no assurance can be given that these will prove to be correct. Furthermore, the Company undertakes no obligation to update or revise forward-looking information contained herein if these beliefs, estimates and opinions or other circumstances should change, except as otherwise required by applicable law.

Forward-looking information relates to future events or to future conditions, performance or results of operations and reflects current expectations or beliefs regarding such matters including, but not limited to, information or statements with respect to: (i) the amount of mineral resources; (ii) exploration, development and production activities, including information regarding the potential mineralization and resources; (iii) the amount of future output over any period; (iv) net present value and internal rates of return of the mining operation; (v) assumptions relating to capital costs, operating costs and other cost metrics; (vi) assumptions relating to gross revenues, operating cash flow and other revenue metrics; (vii) assumptions relating to future price and demand for lithium and other macroeconomic metrics; (viii) exploration and development plans, including anticipated costs and timing thereof, time frames for completion, and anticipated time to production; (ix) mine potential and expected mine life; and * sources of and anticipated financing requirements.

All information other than matters of historical fact may be forward-looking information. In some cases, forward-looking information can be identified by the use of words such as "seek", "expect", "anticipate", "budget", "plan", "project", "estimate", "assume", "continue", "forecast", "intend", "believe", "predict", "potential", "target", "strategy", "goal", "may", "could", "would", "might", or "will" and similar words or phrases (including negative variations) suggesting future outcomes or statements regarding an outlook.

Forward-looking information is based upon certain assumptions by the Company or its consultants and other important factors that, if untrue, could cause the actual results, performances or achievements of the Company to be materially different from future results, performances or achievements expressed or implied by such information. Such information is based on numerous assumptions regarding present and future business strategies and the environment in which the Company will operate in the future, including the price of lithium, anticipated costs and ability to achieve goals. Certain important factors that could cause actual results, performances or achievements to differ materially from those in the forward-looking information include, but are not limited to: (i) required capital investment and estimated workforce requirements; (ii) estimates of net present value and internal rates of return; (iii) receipt of regulatory approvals on acceptable terms within commonly experienced time frames; (iv) anticipated timelines for the commencement of production; (v) anticipated timelines for community consultations and the impact of those consultations on the regulatory approval process; (vi) market prices for lithium; and (vii) future exploration plans and objectives.

By its nature, forward-looking information involves known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause actual results, performance or achievements, or industry results, to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking information. Some of the risks and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking information contained in this press release include, but are not limited to, risks and uncertainties relating to: (i) the interpretation of drill results, the geology, grade and continuity of mineral deposits and conclusions of economic evaluations; (ii) results of feasibility studies, and the possibility that future exploration, development or mining results will not be consistent with the Company's expectations, (iii) the outcome of litigation in which the Company is or may in the future become involved; (iv) risks relating to possible variations in reserves, grade, planned mining dilution and ore loss, or recovery rates and changes in project parameters as plans continue to be refined; (v) mining and development risks, including risks related to accidents, equipment breakdowns, labour disputes (including work stoppages and strikes) or other unanticipated difficulties with or interruptions in exploration and development; (vi) risks related to the inherent uncertainty of production and cost estimates and the potential for unexpected costs and expenses; (vii) risks related to commodity price and foreign exchange rate fluctuations; (viii) the uncertainty of profitability based upon the cyclical nature of the industry in which the Company operates; (ix) risks related to failure to obtain adequate financing on a timely basis and on acceptable terms or delays in obtaining governmental approvals or in the completion of development or construction activities; * risks related to environmental regulation and liability; (xi) political and regulatory risks associated with mining and exploration; (xii) risks related to the uncertain global economic environment; and (xiii) other risks and uncertainties related to the Company's prospects, properties and business strategy. Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking information, readers are cautioned that this list is not exhaustive and there may be other factors that the Company has not identified. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking information contained in this press release. All forward-looking information contained in this press release or incorporated by reference herein is expressly qualified by this cautionary note.

 

SOURCE CANADA LITHIUM CORP.



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