Kodal Minerals has spent the past 18 months on an accelerated development plan at its 90%-owned Bougouni lithium project in Mali.
Kodal Minerals intends to better understand how best to unlock the multiple high-grade targets held within this promising resource.
The company has just proved up a maiden mineral resource of 17.3 Mt at 1.20% lithium oxide (Li20), with plans to aggressively progress the project to first production by 2020, CEO, Bernard Aylward tells Chantelle Kotze.
This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 11 2018
“It is a very exciting time for any exploration geologist when we get the chance to see our discovery move to development” Aylward says, as he reflects on the progress of the Bougouni lithium project.
Despite the surplus in lithium supply in 2018, which has caused lithium prices to slip, analysts expect lithium demand to continue to rise in the long-term, owing to the wider adoption of electric vehicles – a trend supported by many cities in the world that have already begun implementing a future ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles in a bid to control carbon emissions.
This is in line with the Paris Agreement to mitigate the effects of climate change.
With solid long-term lithium demand expected to remain intact, there is a large group of lithium hopefuls in Africa who are part of the race to unlock this critical metal as more and more lithium-ion battery factories open their doors.
Early development potential
Kodal has been exploring for lithium since late 2016, when it acquired its first lithium assets – the contiguous Madina and Kolassokoro concessions, which together form the 450 km2 Bougouni lithium project in southern Mali – adding to its highly prospective suite of gold assets in West Africa.
In a value accretive move by the company, Kodal acquired these lithium concessions, which are known to host lithium occurrences, for a very low entry cost of US$150 000 and $140 000, respectively.
This allowed the company to concentrate its expenditure on demonstrating the value of the project by identifying mineral resources as quickly and efficiently as possible – a goal which it had achieved by September 2018 - two years post acquisition.
“With lithium having become such a huge investment story, with strong demand for a quality spodumene product (the lithium-bearing mineral that Kodal will produce), the company has leveraged it extensive West African knowledge to develop what we believe is a globally significant new lithium province,” says Aylward, adding that the release of the mineral resource estimate is a major milestone in the advancement of the Bougouni lithium project as it confirms the potential for future mining development.
This maiden resource estimate is based on the three most advanced prospects within Boungouni, namely Sogola-Baoule (10.4 Mt at 1.18% Li2O), Ngoualana (4.7 Mt at 1.34% Li2O), and Boumou (2.2 Mt at 1.01% Li2O), all of which remain open along strike and at depth with considerable potential to expand.
In strengthening and supporting the project and its mineral resource estimate, Kodal commissioned an order of magnitude study at Bougouni to assess the best and most viable processing route (based on the ongoing metallurgical test work) as well as a preliminary open pit optimisation study.
The studies suggest the potential for a minimum ten year mine life with low capital costs and robust economics, which is very encouraging, says Aylward.
The studies further indicate a potential production capacity of 130 000 t of spodumene concentrate at a cost of US$400/t – which compares to a current market selling price of between $800/t and $900/t.
Upside potential remains
Despite having already proved up mineral resources at three key prospects within Bougouni, Aylward says that potential still exists to continue to explore and expand the project even further.
“Every one of the eight prospects that we have drill tested has come back with strongly mineralised pegmatite veins that require further work,” Aylward adds.
At the South Bougouni prospect within the Ngoualana prospect where Kodal has drilled eight holes, mineralised pegmatite veins with zones of interest of up to 30 m have been identified using wide spaced drilling – these remain open and requires follow up drilling to target along strike of the identified veins.
Throughout the remainder of the Ngoualana prospect, mapping and geochemical samplings have continued to define prospective areas that also require drilling.
Meanwhile, the Sogola-Baoule prospect has continued to define an extensive pegmatite body with current strike length exceeding 1 400 m that remains open at depth and along strike.
The interpretation of the Sogola-Baoule prospect is continuing to develop. Kodal has identified a "main" vein with additional hanging wall and footwall pegmatite veins that will add to the potential economic viability of a mining operation at this prospect.
Lastly, at Boumou – the third advanced prospect – Kodal has intersected multiple lithium mineralised pegmatite veins.
In the southern portion of the prospect, drilling has identified four closely spaced pegmatite veins with mineralised widths up to 19 m that confirm previous reconnaissance drill testing and surface mapping.
This area requires further drill testing to target the strike extensions and the depth extensions of the veins, and geological reviews indicate a possible convergence of structures to the west.
This will be followed up with RC drilling.
In the northern portion of the prospect, a consistent pegmatite vein extending for over 400 m with downhole mineralisation up to 15 m in width has been confirmed.
Follow-up drilling will target the western extension of the zone where the structure remains open along strike and also indicates a convergence of structures.
Kodal will continue to drill at these three prospects throughout the current wet season, says Aylward, noting that when the dry season arrives the company will begin targeting extensions at the multiple targets within Sogola-Baoule and Boumou with the aim of adding further definition to the resource estimation.
For the remainder of 2018, Kodal will undertake a site visit with its independent geologist with the aim of releasing a mineral resource upgrade.
The company will also complete its 5 000 t bulk sampling programme to inform the company on how best to optimise the processing plant.
“By the first half of 2019 we aim to lodge our mining licence application, and while this is a challenge, we are excited about the future development of our project” Aylward notes.
A second lithium asset
Located 100 km to the south of Bougouni is Kodal’s Diendio project – which comprises three contiguous licence areas, namely Diendio Sud, Diossyan Sud and Manankoro Nord, covering an area of 109 km2 with early indications of pegmatite mineralisation. Kodal plans to undertake exploration work here before the end of the year.