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AVZ Minerals super-charges world’s biggest lithium deposit

Updated: Mar 21

AVZ Minerals has upgraded the resource at its Manono lithium project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: File

AVZ Minerals has increased the resource of its Manono project in the Democratic Republic of Congo to an extraordinary 842 million tonnes at 1.61 per cent lithium oxide, representing a massive 47 per cent rise.

The remarkable resource expansion came after the company generated results from a 53-hole diamond drill campaign across 15,684m along strike from known mineralisation at its Roche Dure deposit.

Management says 79 per cent of the lithium resource at Manono was discovered at Roche Dure, with the balance hosted at the Carriere de l’Este mineral deposit for a total of 13.52 million tonnes of lithium oxide. The project also includes significant tin and tantalum grades of 709 parts per million and 37ppm, respectively.

Drilling along strike from the area of known mineralisation at Roche Dure was designed to expand the future economic opportunities associated with an increase of the mineral resource from its previous 401 million tonnes going 1.65 per cent lithium oxide that was reported in May.

The latest figures come after AVZ last month tabled a maiden resource for its Carrière de l’Este pegmatite of 173 million tonnes at 1.58 per cent lithium oxide for 2.73 million tonnes of contained lithium oxide.

Management says the addition of the 53 diamond holes generated a high level of confidence in the deposit model and resulted in an 82 per cent increase in the combined measured and indicated categories at Roche Dure. The resource at Roche Dure includes an updated geological model of the expanded mineral deposit, based on the additional drilling results and from a reinterpretation of the previous data.

The JORC-compliant mineral resource was estimated by independent geological consultants CSA Global South Africa.

Management says the higher-confidence tonnages are expected to increase the project’s potential mine life, in addition to decreasing waste-to-ore stripping ratios resulting from the significant flattening of the deposit in the northern 500m of the newly-completed geological model.

The completion of the Roche Dure drilling programme brings this study to a conclusion and has added a further 268 million tonnes to the Company’s overall Mineral Resource. Significantly, of this extra defined tonnage, an extra 216 million tonnes were added to the Measured and Indicated categories which may underpin future increases in mineable Ore Reserve re-estimates due to the relatively high level of confidence in the estimates of these new tonnages going forward. AVZ Minerals managing director Nigel Ferguson

The company has been locked in a legal dispute with its joint venture (JV) partners and the DRC Government over shareholdings in the project and recently had an interim win in an international arbitration administered by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

In an interim ruling, the ICSID ordered the DRC Government to restore or confirm ownership of the project in the name of Dathcom, the JV company that is majority-owned by AVZ.

The company’s securities remained in suspension during the December 2023 quarter, pending a resolution and clarity on the mining and exploration rights for the Manono project.

The operation sits about 500km due north of Lubumbashi, the capital of the Katanga Province, in the south-east of the DRC. It is adjacent to the Manono and Kitatolo townships.

In 2019, AVZ took 54 samples of lithium-mineralised and non-mineralised pegmatite, with grades in the range of 0.009 to 4.13 per cent lithium oxide and an average grade of 1.46 per cent lithium oxide, from three diamond drillholes. The work ultimately showed that the Carrière mineralogy was similar to Roche Dure.

While the future of the Manono project remains in limbo in the short-term, the sheer size of the updated resource at the operation means the market will be keeping a close eye on what the next move is for AVZ.

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