Element 25 Limited (ASX:E25) has confirmed that ore haulage has commenced under the terms of the Letter of Intent executed with AK Evans Group Australia for transportation of manganese concentrate from the company’s 100% owned world class Butcherbird Manganese Project to Utah Point in Port Hedland.
The first trucks contain the first manganese concentrate produced from the Project. This material has been produced as part of the commissioning and ramp up of the Stage 1 processing plant which will produce a nominal 365Kt of high-quality manganese concentrate over a mine life of approximately 40 years prior to a proposed 3X expansion in Stage 2.
Haulage of the remaining concentrate to make up the planned total 27Kt of material will occur over coming days culminating in the loading of the first ship containing Butcherbird manganese product, currently scheduled to for the last week of June 2021.
E25 Managing Director Mr Justin Brown commented,
The team has bowled over yet another key milestone on our journey to fast-track the development of the Project. The successful commissioning and ramp up of this first stage of development provides a fantastic foundation from which to grow this business both by expanding concentrate production as part of our Stage 2 expansion plans but also by developing the processing infrastructure to produce battery grade Zero Carbon Manganese products for the Li-Ion batteries which will power the electrification of the global vehicle fleet.”
Project team focus
The Project team will now turn its focus to the next stages of the multi-stage development strategy of the Project including a Stage 2 expansion of the concentrate business followed by a Stage 3 development to convert the concentrate material into high purity manganese sulphate monohydrate (HPMSM) for electric vehicle (EV) batteries to power the global transition away from fossil fuel powered mobility
Manganese is emerging as an increasingly important ingredient for EV batteries, with potential supply constraints for nickel and cobalt forcing battery manufacturers to look to high manganese cathodes to produce the vast amount of cathode material required by the EV industry in coming years.2
The Project is ideally placed to feed this potential demand, with advanced flowsheet development work undertaken in 2019 and 2020 confirming a simple, unique, ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure leach process for E25 ores which, when combined with offsets, will target the world’s first Zero Carbon Manganese for EV cathode manufacture.
The Butcherbird Manganese Project is a world class manganese resource with current JORC resources in excess of 263 Mt of manganese ore4. The Company completed a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS)5 with respect to developing the deposit to produce manganese concentrate for export to generate early cashflow with a modest capital requirement6. The outstanding economics and low capital hurdle of less than A$17 million for the first stage of development has allowed the Company to deliver first production from the Project in less than twelve months from the publication of the PFS.
The PFS also highlighted the Project has the potential for significant growth beyond the initial Stage 1 production volumes (the studies examined the potential for a 2X and 3X expansion to Stage 1 within 12 months of initial commissioning) and the Company expects to expedite the expansion of the Project.
In addition to the concentrate export business, the Company has completed extensive research & development and laboratory test work into the production of high purity manganese products including battery grade manganese sulphate (HPMSM) and High Purity Electrolytic Manganese Metal (HPEMM). The work has highlighted that the Butcherbird ores are highly amenable to an ambient temperature, atmospheric pressure leach process, resulting in a very efficient extraction of the manganese into solution, the key requirement for the cost effective and sustainable production of HPMSM and HPEMM.
The Project straddles the Great Northern Highway and the Goldfields Gas Pipeline, providing turnkey logistics and energy solutions. The Company plans to integrate renewable energy into the power solution over time to target a zero-carbon footprint for the Project, which is expected to also reduce energy costs. A cleaner, lower carbon flowsheet and high penetration renewable energy will place Butcherbird at the forefront of sustainable high purity manganese production.