West Perth-based Liontown Resources has announced the results of the Definitive Feasibility Study for their Kathleen Valley Lithium Project in Western Australia. The project will initially start mining at a rate of 2.5 Mt/y, increasing to 4 Mt/y by 2029. Over the life of mine a total of 83 Mt at 1.3% Li2O will be mined, producing over 500,000 t/y of spodumene concentrate (SC6).
Snowden Optiro was responsible for the mine design, scheduling component of the study. The design and schedule includes about 4000 stopes, over 200 km of mine development and two open pits. Chris Jones (Principal Consultant) completed the optimisation studies, MSO runs, mine design and mine schedules. He was assisted by Andre Racilan and Pedro Ladeira from Datamine. Allan Earl (Executive Consultant) was the study manager and is the Competent Person (JORC 2012) for the Kathleen Valley Ore Reserve. Our team was also supported by our group of Associates for aspects such as contractor costs, ventilation, pastefill testing and design, geotechnical and blasting studies.
The mine covers an area of about 2 km (north-south) and 1.5 km (east-west) and comprises:
- Two small open pits which provide early mill feed and access to the underground declines
- An area of flat lying, stacked pegmatite orebodies varying from 5 m to +30 m high. Longhole open stoping with paste fill, and room and pillar stoping will be used in this area.
- An area of more steeply dipping pegmatites 10 to 40 m wide. Longhole open stoping will be used in this area.
The mine has a number of advantages including its very shallow depth (less than 400 m below surface), very high rock stengths, low seismic risk and the project’s close proximity to a major mining district.
Liontown had originally planned a big open-pit operation for Kathleen Valley. With Snowden Optiro’s advice the design has changed to become a mostly underground operation to minimise surface disruption and protect important community cultural sites while enhancing the project’s ESG. At the signing of a native title agreement struck on Wednesday, Tjiwarl AC chairman Brett Lewishad said that the Tjiwarl had initially opposed Liontown’s proposed exploration plans for Kathleen Valley because the area was culturally important to the group but the two parties had agreed to work together for a mutually beneficial outcome.
Snowden Optiro’s work was important to this outcome as we worked closely with Liontown to minimise impact on culturally significant landforms, and to significantly reduce the overall mine footprint impacted by open pits and waste dumps, while ensuring the project returned the best financial outcome possible.
The underground approach developed by Snowden Optiro has allowed Liontown to develop a “net zero” trajectory with a climate strategy in place to targeting net zero emissions by 2034. A large proportion of the mine waste will be returned underground as pastefill futher reducing the mine footprint.