Mineral Resources jumps on lithium mine restart

Mineral Resources shares spiked on Monday after the $7 billion miner announced that the MARBL Lithium Joint Venture would restart operations at the Wodgina Lithium Mine, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Although shares pulled back on Tuesday after the company said it produced less iron ore and spodumene in its first fiscal quarter versus the preceding three months as the miner continued to face disruptions from pandemic-related restrictions.

MARBL, a 40/60 joint venture owned by MRL and Albemarle Corporation (NYSE: ALB) expects Wodgina, which was placed on care and maintenance in November 2019 because of the then weak global market conditions, to be restarted to safely produce spodumene concentrate during the third quarter of 2022.

Wodgina, 120km south of Port Hedland has installed a processing capacity of 750,000tpa of spodumene concentrate. The mine is serviced by its own 64MW gas-fired power plant, a 700-bed accommodation village and an airfield capable of landing A320 aircraft.

Initially, MARBL will focus on restarting one of Wodgina’s three 250,000tpa processing lines. When market demand is sufficient, additional processing lines may be recommenced. The start-up and initial operating phase at Wodgina are expected to create 200 new full-time jobs.

MRL and Albemarle formed MARBL for the exploration, development, mining, processing and production of lithium and other minerals from the Wodgina Project and for the operation of the Kemerton lithium hydroxide conversion assets. Under the terms of the MARBL joint venture, MRL’s Mining Services business will provide crushing and camp services at Wodgina, while Albemarle will market 100% of the output from Wodgina.

Commenting on the decision to resume operations, Mineral Resources Managing Director Chris Ellison said: “We are delighted that the MARBL JV has decided to restart Wodgina, a world-class lithium opportunity that MRL developed into a mine with world-class potential. Lithium is one of MRL’s two core commodities, alongside iron ore, and we have worked very hard over the past five years to establish long life operations for both. Wodgina, along with our 50%-owned Mt Marion Lithium Project in WA’s Goldfields and the soon-to-be-completed 40%-owned Kemerton Hydroxide Facility, give MRL a world-class portfolio of highest-quality, long-life lithium assets in a Tier 1 mining jurisdiction.”