Maricunga Lithium Project
- Bearing’s primary asset is a 17.14% interest in the Maricunga lithium project in Chile. The Maricunga project is the highest grade, undeveloped lithium salar in the Americas. It is second in grade only to the Salar de Atacama, which accounts for 100% of Chile’s lithium production and about 40% of global production. Over US$67 million has been invested in the project to date.
- The Maricunga project hosts a NI 43-101 Measured & Indicated Resource of 2.1 Mt LCE at an average grade of 1,170 mg/L Li. An exploration target suggests the potential to add an additional 1.0 – 2.5 Mt of LCE1.
- A Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) outlined production of 20,000 tpa LCE at a cash cost of US$3,772/t LCE over a 23-year mine life which generated an after-tax NPV8% of US$908 million, IRR of 21.0% and 4.2-year payback including a 2-year ramp-up.
- An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was awarded by the Chilean Environmental Review Agency (SEA) in February 2020.
- A key regulatory export license from the Chilean Nuclear Commission (CCHEN) has been awarded to the Maricunga project. This allows for the extraction, production and marketing of lithium products from the project from its grandfathered concessions.
- Critical project infrastructure including power and water for the construction and operation have been secured through long-term contracts.
Technical Report on the Maricunga Lithium Project NI 43-101 (17901 KB)
About the Project
The Maricunga project is located 170 kilometres northeast of Copiapo in the III Region of Atacama in northern Chile at an elevation of 3,800 metres above sea level (masl). The project is comprised of a number of tenements totalling 4,463 hectares.
The project is serviced by a number of access roads and highways capable of supporting the transportation of heavy equipment required for construction and service a mining operation. Additionally, long-term agreements have been entered into for critical project infrastructure including grid power supply and water rights.
Following on from the 2019 Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS), the joint-venture is currently in discussions with strategic parties for off-take and project financing.
The outstanding permits required for construction and operation are anticipated to be finalized in 2020. The Chilean Environmental Review Agency (SEA) awarded the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in February 2020. A key regulatory export license from the Chilean Nuclear Commission (CCHEN) was awarded in 2018 which allows for the extraction, production and marketing of lithium products. A joint venture with CODELCO will provide for remaining permits for new-code concessions and potential for expanded footprint through larger land position.
The Maricunga project represents one of only a small handful of projects at the development stage and the highest-grade undeveloped lithium brine project in the world. Over US$60 million has been expended on the project to date to advance and de-risk it to its current state.
Location of the Salar de Maricunga
NI 43-101 Preliminary Economic Assessment
- The 2019 Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) is based on the following assumptions:
- Construction commencing in 2020 with first production in 2023
- Assumes 100% equity project funding (BRZ ownership 18.02%)
- Accuracy of operating and capital cost estimates expected within a +/- 15% range
- Development cost estimated at US$456M plus indirect costs of US$45M and US$63M contingency (12.5%)
- Operating cost of US$3,772/t LCE
- Operating costs are in the lowest quartile of the global cost curve
- Maricunga ranks amongst the most efficient producers based on Roskill industry analysis
- Roskill’s analysis of the lithium cost curve (2027E) of all lithium producers shows total production costs (incl. royalties) in the lowest quartile for the Maricunga project
NI 43-101 Resource & Reserve Estimate
- Total project resources of 2.1 Mt LCE are comprised of Measured Resources of 0.8 Mt LCE and Indicated Resources of 1.3 Mt LCE
- Reserves totalling 0.7Mt LCE comprised of 0.2 Mt LCE Proven and 0.5 Mt LCE Probable
- Production from permitted claims sufficient for initial 7+ years of production
Maricunga Resource Estimate
Maricunga Reserve Estimate
An exploration target has been identified between a depth of 200 m and 400 m (immediately below the current resource) based on the results of borehole S-19 (TD 360 m) which bottomed in mineralized lithium brine. This exploration target may contain potentially an additional 195,000 to 470,000 tonnes lithium (1.0 to 2.6 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent) and 1.530,000 to 3,470,000 tonnes potassium (3.0 to 6.6 million tonnes of potassium chloride equivalent) between 200 metres and 400 metres depth.
It must be noted that exploration targets are not mineral resources. The potential quantity and grade of the exploration target is conceptual in nature, and there has been insufficient exploration to define a Mineral Resource in the volume where the Exploration Target is outlined. It is uncertain if further exploration drilling will result in the determination of a Mineral Resource in this volume.
The Maricunga Joint-Venture Agreement
- All the concessions are held by the joint-venture company, Minera Salar Blanco (“MSB”)
- LPI acquired a 51.0% interest through exploration, property and share payments totaling US$28.4 million
- The Board for the Maricunga JV is comprised of six (6) board members with representation by LPI (3 seats), MSB (2 seats) and Bearing (1 seat)
- Any expenditures require unanimous approval by all parties
- All JV partners have a right of first refusal in the event of a sale
Maricunga Joint Venture Ownership Structure
Chilean Mining Law & Pathway Forward
Lithium is considered “strategic” in Chile and therefore it is a non-concessible substance.
Only mining exploitation concessions initiated before 1979 are authorized for the exploitation of lithium. These are referred to as “old code” or grandfathered tenements / claims. The Cocina, San Francisco, Salamina and Despreciada concessions fall into this category.
Lithium production is controlled by the Chilean Government which proceeds on the basis of formal tonnage production quotas assigned by the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CChen). For non-grandfathered claims an additional permit, or Special Lithium Operations Contracts (CEOL), is required.
Recent awards include the Maricunga JV, Codelco, Albemarle and SQM.
- Maricunga JV was granted authorization from the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CChEN) to extract up to 0.473 Mt of lithium carbonate from the Maricunga salar.
- Codelco attained a permit from the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CChEN) and the Special Lithium Operations Contract (CEOL) to extract up to 1.73 Mt of lithium carbonate (325,045 t Li) from the Maricunga salar.
- Albemarle (NYSE:ALB) was granted an amendment of its lithium production rights with the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO) to expand its quota to 80,000 tonnes annually of technical and battery grade lithium over the next 27 years.
- SQM (NYSE:SQM) was granted an amendment of its lithium production rights with the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO) to expand its quota to 216,000 tonnes annually of technical and battery grade lithium through 2025.