Australian lithium miner Core Lithium (ASX: CXO) has provided its chairman’s address and AGM presentation.
In his address to shareholders, Core chairman Gregg English said:
Good morning and welcome to the twelfth Annual General Meeting of Core Lithium Ltd (“Core”, “Company”). I respectfully acknowledge that we meet today on the lands of Kaurna people and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge that the Larrakia people are the past and present Traditional Custodians of the land on which the Finniss Lithium Project (“Finniss”, “Project”) is located and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.
A lot has happened in the 12 months since our last AGM. We have progressed Finniss to the stage where we are mining ore at the Grants open pit. We are trucking direct shipping lithium ore (“DSO”) to Darwin Port, and will commence shipping to China in the coming weeks. Our Dense Media Separation (“DMS”) processing plant is nearing completion, and we are on track to commence lithium concentrate shipments early next year.
We have successfully established a strong culture of safety awareness and have progressively implemented leading health and safety standards, management systems and education programs into our daily work schedules. The Core team, in particular the Project owners team, continues to focus on strict adherence to our core value of Working Safely.
We will continue to identify opportunities to improve our performance as part of our continuous improvement cycle. It was just over 12 months ago that the Board made the Final Investment Decision (“FID”) to proceed with construction of the Finniss Project. When making the FID, the Grants open pit was the only permitted mine with a design mine life of approximately 2.5 years.
The Board was confident in our ability to grow the Finniss resource and mine life, and for the global demand for lithium to remain strong. Since the FID, our forecast life of mine has increased by 50% to a minimum of 12 years, and the lithium price has increased substantially.
We have only drilled about 10% of our tenements (by area), and we are confident in the potential for additional lithium resources. Drilling at BP33 has identified additional resources at depth and to the south. Further drilling at Carlton, Sandras and Ah Hoys has identified additional resources, with some of the deposits identified remaining open. Our exploration budget for the calendar year is our largest to date, and we intend to at least double this budget again in 2023. We remain buoyed by our exploration success and confident that we will further extend Finniss’ mine life in 2023. Resource growth will also underpin the future of Finniss and any potential expansion or downstream processing opportunities.
As a team, we are bringing Finniss into production at the right time in the commodity price cycle, with near-record high spodumene prices reported and credible forecasts predicting higher near-term prices to remain. The substantial increases in lithium prices and the robust outlook for lithium, supported by many independent commentators, bode well for the Company as we look to commence lithium exports from Finniss.
Site based activities focused on constructing critical water management facilities such as wastewater storage and settling dams to manage stormwater runoff and the mine tailings dam. Our team at Finniss has done well to complete all of this work ahead of the wet season.
In addition to the critical environmental works, open pit mining at the Grants open pit has progressed, with the Grants Stage 1 works nearing completion. Lithium ore is being trucked to the run of mine stockpile, and run of mine ore is being fed into the crusher, which is now fully operational. The crushed ore will then be fed into the DMS processing plant, which is nearing completion. Finniss is unique because we do not need to grind or float the spodumene. The output of the DMS plant is a 6mm “gravel” that can be easily handled and managed.
Last month, the Company announced the first sale of lithium ore from the Project with 15,000 of run of mine ore (DSO). The DSO is currently being stored at Darwin Port for shipment to China in the coming weeks. Spodumene concentrate shipments will commence in early 2023, subject to any wet season related delays.
We achieved much over the 12 months and could not have done so without the support and dedication of our people. In particular, I would like to thank Stephen Biggins, Blair Duncan and Simon Iacopetta for their hard work, perseverance and commitment to the Project.
Stephen was a founding director of Core and led the team that acquired the original Finniss tenements and oversaw our early exploration success. Stephen and Simon worked closely together to raise the funds and sign the offtake agreements needed to fund the Project. Blair assembled a strong team and oversaw the initial design and construction of the Project.
In August 2022, we welcomed Gareth Manderson to Core as Chief Executive Officer. Gareth brings a wealth of Australian and international mining operation experience across different commodities. Since joining Core, Gareth has instilled a more responsive and accountable culture, leading to improvements across the Company and Finniss. Gareth has strengthened his executive team through the appointment of Alicia Sherwood (Executive External Relations, Communities and Communications), Mike Stone (Chief Operating Officer) and Sam Rees (Executive General Manager People and Culture).
It may be somewhat cliché, but I believe that with Finniss we are definitely “in the right place at the right time”. Spodumene prices continue to rise, and credible forecasters predict the price will remain high for many years.
The ore at Finniss is high grade and metallurgically simple, with low iron, and we can ship the spodumene as simple gravel, making our product appealing to customers.
We would not be able to deliver the Project without the support of the NT Government and the Darwin community. Finniss is close to existing infrastructure and has all the benefits of being one hour’s drive from Darwin. More than 80% of the Finniss workforce drive in and out of Darwin and live in the local community. We remain committed to local training and recruitment, local procurement and economic development, and have commenced implementing programs to strengthen our ties with the community.
We also express our gratitude to our offtake partners, Sichuan Yahua and Ganfeng Lithium, with who we have developed healthy relationships and who have supported our journey from mineral explorer to lithium miner.
We have achieved much in the past 12 months, but the work to realise the full potential of the larger Finniss Project is just beginning. We look forward to the many exciting opportunities ahead of us.
I want to thank my fellow board members, Heath Hellewell and Malcolm McComas, Gareth and his team, and our contractors, suppliers and partners for their dedication and energy in building the Project.
Finally, I thank our shareholders, many of whom have been the Company’s supporters for a long time, for your continued support, trust, and confidence.