Lithium Power International (ASX:LPI) talks its Maricunga Lithium Project


by Carolyn Herbert

Lithium Power International (ASX:LPI) CEO Martin Holland provides an update on its Maricunga Project, drill results and progress on its pre-feasibility study.

Carolyn Herbert: Hello. I'm Carolyn Herbert from the Finance News Network, and joining me from Lithium Power International (ASX:LPI) is CEO Martin Holland. Martin, welcome back.

Martin Holland: Thank you very much for having me again.

Carolyn Herbert: Now, you're unable to attend the Mines and Money conference this year. What are some of the key messages you'd like to convey to people attending the conference?

Martin Holland: Yeah, so, there's quite a few key messages, but, across the board, we just completed an extensive road show across the Americas, starting in Santiago, over to Toronto, New York and Boston, Connecticut and Dallas and back to Sydney; and now we are really focusing on actually building a mine here, in Chile, in Maricunga. All the exploration work is done. So we are at a point now where we really need to focus on all the deliverables and the milestones that are required to actually build the next lithium mine in Chile.

Carolyn Herbert: And now to the Maricunga brine project in more detail. Where is it located and what does it contain?

Martin Holland: So, it's located in the Atacama region of Chile. This region is renowned for 30-40% of the world's supply. Two of the largest lithium companies in the world are in the same region. And this project is the nearest pre-production lithium asset and the highest-grade lithium asset in South America.

Carolyn Herbert: And Martin, can you tell us about the drilling campaign and the progress on the PFS?

Martin Holland: Yeah, the drilling campaign was a huge success for the company. Every single place that we put the drill rig from zero metres all the way down to 200 metres, we found high-grade lithium from surface, all the way through. More importantly though, it wasn't just the high-grade nature of the salar, but the porosity and permeability data that we're getting is second to none from any other project out there globally as well, which ultimately allows for maximum lithium extraction, plus having extremely high grade.

When it comes to the overall PFS, we're telling the market that we're going to put the right people in the right place at the right time. We've got an overall development timeline in place, and we're hitting every single milestone. We're looking to have PFS completed by year end and move towards bankable feasibility in 2018.

Carolyn Herbert: So Martin, all lithium salars have a different chemistry make-up. What can you tell us about the Maricunga lithium chemistry?

Martin Holland: So, chemistry is very important when it comes to lithium salars. Every salar is different, and the Maricunga is actually quite unique. It has a very high-grade lithium. So, twice the grade of most other lithium salars globally. When it comes to contaminants, it has a moderate level of magnesium, but it's actually lower than the Atacama project itself. If you move along, you look at the sulphur, it has zero sulphur, and it also has a moderate level of calcium. Our processing engineer, Peter Ehrens, has worked out how to turn the calcium into a calcium chloride, which actually becomes a saleable product. And we also have a very high grade of potash, which will also be quite valuable as well.

So across the board, our engineers believe that there's no real red flags when it comes to the chemistry make-up of the Maricunga salar.

Carolyn Herbert: And what are the economics of the project?

Martin Holland: The economics of the projects is looking quite favourable at present, though we are working on our PFS and we're looking to have our bankable feasibility completed in the year of 2018. Though at the moment, with the current price of lithium, this project, due to the higher-grade nature of it, in lithium and also in potash with contaminants that are considered to be low, is going to be a very valuable project, and it will sit on the bottom of the lithium global cost curve.

Carolyn Herbert: And Martin, to financials now. Can you provide us with a snapshot of the company's financials and funding requirements?

Martin Holland: The company has raised in excess of $24 million in the last sort of six months. We're currently sitting in a position with about US$5 million in the bank as we sit here today. That will take us through to the next phases. We've also announced that we're divesting our Argentine asset, which we have a number of companies in the data room at the moment reviewing that project, because our focus is to really focus on the development on being Chile's next lithium producer. We are at a point now that we've had many strategic interests across the globe. And we'll look at all different options as we move forward with this development of this mine.

Carolyn Herbert: So, who's on the register and who supported the company to this point?

Martin Holland: So, the register is quite extensive. We have about 13 new institutions on the registry. We have now about 1,300 shareholders and the top 20 owns about 70% of the company.

Carolyn Herbert: And now to a more general question, Martin. What's the operating environment like in Chile?

Martin Holland: Chile is the home of mining in Latin America. It produces a third of the world's copper supply. It produces a third of the world's lithium supply. It's really got all the infrastructure set up there, and it's a very good place to work in Latin America. If I was to choose anywhere in Latin America, one, two and three, it would be Chile, Chile, Chile. But saying this, moving forward, Aurora Williams, who is the mining minister of Chile, announced at PDAC only last week that Chile's main goal is to find foreign capital to develop the Maricunga. And this is a very big statement, because the Maricunga is the project that Lithium Power (ASX:LPI) owns.

Carolyn Herbert: And finally, Martin, what distinguishes LPI from other lithium developers, and what makes an investment compelling?

Martin Holland: Well, projects in Chile are going to be on the bottom of the lithium global cost curve. We are the only ASX-listed company with exposure to a lithium brine project in Chile. There's been in excess of US$42 million spent on this project. It's been consolidated now. The drilling has now completed. We have all the right people in place now to actually build the mine. And we are now going through those milestones to be Chile's next lithium producer.

Carolyn Herbert: Martin Holland, thanks for the update.

Martin Holland: And thanks again for your time.