Notably, the updated study has upgraded the after-tax net present value (NPV) for the proposed lithium hydroxide operation by 14% to US$888 million or about A$1.25 billion.
The updated scoping study contemplates a staged development approach to minimise start-up risk and up-front capital requirements.
It also includes a 22,700 tonne per year chemical plant supported by an operation producing 170,000 tonnes per year of 6% lithium oxide spodumene concentrate.
This updated scoping study also incorporates the production of by-product quartz, feldspar and mica, revealed in the recent JORC resource update.
Piedmont’s president and CEO Keith D. Phillips said: “We are very pleased with the results of the updated Scoping Study, which incorporate the substantial economic benefits of recovering and selling the by-products quartz, feldspar and mica that is inherent in our ore body.
"The economic benefit of developing an integrated lithium chemical business in North Carolina, USA is clear, driven by the exceptional infrastructure and human resource advantages of our location, as well as the competitive royalty and tax regime offered in the United States.”
The two-stage 22,700 tonnes per year lithium hydroxide operation will have an initial 13-year mine life with first stage initial capex of US$109 million.
Stage two capex for the chemical plant is expected to be funded largely by internal cash flow.
First quartile operating costs
A key feature of the project is its competitive cost profile with average life of project cash operating costs of US$3,112 per tonne.
This positions Piedmont as one of the industry’s lowest cost producers.
Moving on to a pre-feasibility study
The successful outcome of the updated scoping study means the company will move forward with a pre-feasibility study (PFS) targeted for completion in 2019.
PFS work programs will include drilling, metallurgical testing, expansion of the land position, permitting and ongoing discussions with potential partners.
Phiilips added: “We will now focus on continued growth in our land position and resource base, advancing toward permit submittals in late-2018, and refining project economics as part of a pre-feasibility study targeted for Q2 2019.”