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2024 Set To Be a Rebound Year For South American Lithium Projects

USA News Group – Coming off a major market correction in 2023 down from 2-2022’s record highs, the lithium market is primed for a rebound in 2024. Analysts at MorningStar using data shared from Platts, LME, Benchmarked Minerals, Fastmarkets, and MorningStar itself are forecasting lithium prices to stabilize and rise in 2024, and to nearly double from $17,000 to $30,000 per metric ton from 2023 to 2030. As the Electric Vehicle (EV) market moves towards a projected $1.66 trillion by 2030, lithium demand is expected to triple from 2022 levels over that time. Today with more than 65% of the world’s lithium reserves, it’s in Latin America where some of the most promising new projects are still under development, including from Lithium South Development Corporation (TSXV: LIS) (OTCQB: LISMF), POSCO Holdings Inc. (NYSE: PKX), American Lithium Corp. (NASDAQ: AMLI) (TSXV: LI), Sigma Lithium Corporation (NASDAQ: SGML) (TSXV: SGML), and Atlas Lithium Corporation (NASDAQ: ATLX).

As an integral part of the prolific Lithium Triangle, Argentina is on pace to become a Top 3 Lithium Producer status by 2027. One of the more prominent developing stories within Argentina’s Salta Province is the Hombre Muerto North Lithium (HMN Li) project, 100% owned by Lithium South Development Corporation (TSXV: LIS) (OTCQB: LISMF) which late last year produced a newly upgraded NI 43-101 technical report, revealing a remarkable 175% increase in its lithium resource to more than 1.58 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent.

Based on this newly defined N.I. 43-101 lithium resource, Lithium South has just completed a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA). This technical and financial evaluation was based upon a potential 15,600 tonne per year lithium carbonate technical grade operation. The envisioned mining facility would use industry standard solar evaporation to extract the lithium. The financial model looked impressive with a after tax Net Present Value of US$938 million, an after-tax Internal Rate of Return of 31.6% and a short 2.5-year payback.

This year has started off with an interesting development between Lithium South and POSCO Argentina SAU, a wholly owned subsidiary of Korean giant, POSCO Holdings Inc. (NYSE: PKX). A key southern portion of the HMN Li Project, the Norma Edith and Viamonte contiguous claim group, is located in a zone of dual jurisdiction between Catamarca and Salta Provinces. POSCO has the Catamarca side and Lithium South has the Salta side. To facilitate development of the area, POSCO and Lithium South have agreed to share brine production from this area on a 50/50 basis. The area may offer the ability for Lithium South to substantially increase the overall potential size of the HMN Li Project. We are awaiting drilling to start in this area.

At the Alba Sabrina claim block, a 400 meter deep pumping well has just been completed. The next step is a long term pump test which is currently underway. Early indications are that the well may offer high productivity. The well was described by the company as exhibiting strong artesian characteristics, which means the brine is flowing out on its own. This hole will be very important in establishing the project viability.

Outside of the Lithium Triangle are still other promising projects in Latin America, including the Falchani lithium project in Peru developed by American Lithium Corp. (NASDAQ: AMLI) (TSXV: LI). Earlier in January 2024, Reuters reported the Falchani’s project value had tripled from the previous forecast to $5.11 billion and that it would have a potential operating life of 32 years.

“The very large increase in NPV combined with a low initial capex and robust economics in the updated PEA for Falchani are the culmination of successful work programs at site and flow sheet optimization over the last couple of years combined with an improved lithium pricing environment,” said Simon Clarke, CEO of American Lithium in the Updated PEA Falchani highlights press release. “We are also extremely pleased to now include the compelling strategic and economic value proposition of adding SOP fertilizer and cesium sulfate by-products to the robust economic potential of core, high purity lithium production at Falchani. This PEA update is a major step towards completion of pre-feasibility work.”

In Brazil, Sigma Lithium Corporation (NASDAQ: SGML) (TSXV: SGML) ended 2023 on a high note, announcing its fifth shipment of 22,000 tonnes of what they call “the most environmentally sustainable lithium in the world” from their Greentech Plant which is operating at its design capacity of 270,000 tonnes per year. The initial buyer of Sigmas lithium is mining giant Glencore which prepaid 50% of the shipment’s value upon completion of loading, reflecting the load’s provisional premium price for the operation’s unique Quintuple Zero Green Lithium concentrate. Sigma followed this up by signing a letter of intention (LOI) for development bank debt of approximately US$100 million to fund construction of its fully licensed second Greentech Industrial Lithium Plant.

"Despite the recent deterioration in the outlook for lithium demand for the short term, the Company believes that with the appropriate capital structure enabled by this development bank financing, it has a unique opportunity to solidify its global industrial competitive leadership in producing low cost and sustainable pre chemical lithium concentrate,” said Sigma CEO and Co-Chairman, Ana Cabral-Gardner.

Set to join Sigma as a Brazilian lithium producer in the near future is Atlas Lithium Corporation (NASDAQ: ATLX), which back in December 2023 reported was fully funded to first production in 2024. This came through gaining commitments with two top lithium chemical companies: Chengxin Lithium Group and Yahua Industrial Group, suppliers of lithium hydroxide to Tesla, BYD, and LG, among others. Goldman Sachs served as financial advisor to Atlas Lithium through these transactions.

Atlas would go on to kick off 2024 by intersecting high-grade lithium mineralization at its Neves Project, including 1.96% Li2O over 3.4m.

"We remain very encouraged by both the widths and grades coming out of our latest drilling campaign results,” said James Abson, Atlas Lithiums Chief Geology Officer. “The recently discovered Anitta 4 mineralized pegmatite cluster is also starting to become more cohesive, with at least two parallel mineralized dikes now being delineated within the swarm. These latest intersects continue to expand the pegmatite body in both down-dip and along-strike orientations."




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