6 Jul 2023 15:00

UkrLithiumMining to build underground mine at lithium deposit in Kirovograd region

MOSCOW. July 6 (Interfax) - UkrLithiumMining LLC (ULM) intends to build an ESG-friendly underground mine to produce lithium in the Kirovograd region.

The management of UkrLithiumMining considered two options for extracting lithium-bearing ores in the Kirovograd region: open-pit (quarry) and underground mining methods, Ukrainian media reported, quoting a company press release.

"We chose underground mining because environmental considerations are important to us. We want to be ESG-friendly," the press office quoted Denis Alyeshin, Chief Strategy Officer at UkrLithiumMining, as saying in an interview with Business Telegraph.

He said that even though Ukraine is not yet a part of the European Union, the company believes that the country will join in the next few years. Therefore, they are carrying out all the work according to the highest European standards. Underground mining causes significantly less harm to the environment compared to open-pit mining.

"The mine will be more expensive for the project's investors, but we have chosen this method. We will descend approximately 600 meters below the deposit. The second stage will involve the construction of an enrichment plant, where we will process the ore into petalite concentrate," Aleshin said.

UkrLithiumMining has signed a contract with the British company Wardell Armstrong, which will conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) - an international equivalent of the Ukrainian Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This assessment is necessary to ensure that the mine and the ore processing plant comply with international environmental standards. To achieve this, a mini weather station will be installed on the construction site, soil and water samples will be collected, and other necessary studies will be conducted. The assessment is expected to take approximately 18 months and the findings and recommendations on how to minimize potential environmental impacts will be presented in a comprehensive report format.

The press release says UkrLithiumMining acquired a special permit for the development of the Polokhovsky lithium deposit in the Kirovograd region in 2017. As of 2023, preparatory work for the construction of a mine and a processing plant has been completed or is being carried out.

Several drilling campaigns were carried out - over 5,000 meters in total - from 2018 to 2021. This made it possible to conduct a geological assessment of reserves in accordance with the international JORC code.

Contracts have been signed for a pre-feasibility study, which will be completed by the end of 2023.

Work has begun on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, which is taking about 18 months.

The Definitive Feasibility Study is planned for 2024 - the last stage of research to substantiate the key technological, financial and economic parameters of the project.

According to information on the company's website, the mine will operate for 15 to 20 years with an estimated annual production of up to 200,000 tonnes of petalite concentrate. The company is also exploring the possibility of building a lithium hydroxide/carbonate plant.

The company will also produce about 1.1 million tonnes of lithium-containing feldspar per year.