Lithium Americas sees rapid development of major U.S. lithium project

TORONTO (Reuters) - Lithium Americas Corp plans rapid development of its Thacker Pass lithium project in Nevada, the company said on Thursday, as it released a feasibility study on what it calls the largest U.S. deposit of the crucial battery ingredient.

The project, which has proven resources of 3.1 million tonnes of lithium, requires a new extraction technique because no lithium-from-clay operations currently exist anywhere around the world.

The Vancouver-based company said its process, developed with top shareholder and Chinese producer Ganfeng Lithium, creates battery-grade lithium in less than 24 hours.

Under the current plan, an open pit mine will operate for 46 years, producing 30,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium annually in the first phase and 60,000 tonnes in a second phase.

Lithium is one of 35 minerals the United States has deemed critical to its economy and security. A Commerce Department report recommending ways to reduce import reliance for those commodities, including streamlined permitting and reviews, is expected in mid-August. [L2N1SP0TF]

Thacker Pass “could benefit from an accelerated permitting procedure that supports the federal mandate to enhance domestic lithium production,” the company said.

Lithium Americas said the first phase of Thacker Pass construction will cost $581 million and take about 21 months, with production in 2022. The second phase, with an estimated cost of $478 million, is scheduled for 2025, with production in 2026.

“As a large U.S.-based lithium project with strong economics, we expect Thacker Pass to attract significant strategic partnership opportunities to accelerate the path to production,” Lithium Americas Chief Executive Tom Hodges said in a statement.

The company said it was considering a range of development options including the sale of an intermediate lithium product with final processing completed by another company, an on-site lithium-ion battery recycling facility and a partnership for the ownership, construction or operation of the mine’s sulfuric acid plants.

Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Tom Brown