Core Lithium shares soared to all-time highs this week after the company announced the first sod had been turned at its Finniss lithium project in the Northern Territory.
Wind the clocks back 12 months and you would have been able to snag Core (ASX: CXO) shares for a mere 6¢ each, on a good day. This was at the tail end of market uncertainty around the long-term outlook of the lithium market fuelled by Chinese regulatory fluctuations and COVID-19 curveballs and prior to nation-wide commitments to a zero-emission economy by 2050.
Those concerns are but a distant memory and lithium stocks are on a tear – particularly those with a clear path to cashflow like Core, whose Finniss project will become Australia’s next lithium operation.
Core shares last night closed at 57¢.
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Backed by all the funding it needs as well as A-class offtake partners including Ganfeng and Yahua, Core this week officially commenced construction at Finniss, on the outskirts of Darwin.
Finniss is slated to cost only $89 million to enter production, which should yield an operation capable of churning out up to 197,000 tonnes per year of spodumene concentrate at forecast operating costs of around $US364 per tonne. Spodumene concentrate prices, having gone for a run, are trading between $US2000-2500 per tonne.
The construction start milestone, which was celebrated with an event hosted by Core managing director Stephen Biggins (below left) and featuring Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner (below right), coincided with Core’s share price this week tipping over 60¢. Even at last night’s slight pullback to 57c, Core’s market capitalisation stands at almost $950 million.
At Finniss, site construction and establishment works are underway following heritage and vegetation approvals. Road access works and construction of communications, fuel and water supply infrastructure have all commenced.
Early works on-site at the Grants deposit have also started in preparation for the commencement of mining activity later this year, followed by construction of the dense media separation process plant, which is set to begin next March.
If all goes according to plan, Core will be in production before the end of 2022.
“At a time when Australia is firmly focused on both the generation of renewable resources and future job prospects for the regions, Core is incredibly proud of this milestone we’ve reached in the Northern Territory,” Mr Biggins said.
“This next phase of the company will be transformational and we are excited to see construction milestones met at Finniss over the coming 12 months, ahead of first production before the end of 2022.
“We also look forward to engaging the local workforce in the NT, with more than 84% of available jobs at Finniss already appointed to locals.
“We’re excited to see the NT play an important role in meeting the ever-rising demand of renewable energy sources.”
It is a sizable feather in the NT Government’s cap as Finniss will be the first significant new mine to be developed in the Territory in more than 15 years.
“The Territory is entering a wave of new mining and this is another exciting milestone for Australia’s comeback capital,” the NT’s Chief Minister, Mr Gunner, said this week.
“This project will provide hundreds of world-class mining jobs for residents in Darwin, Palmerston and the rural area, which will also support local business and create new opportunities for Territorians.”