Ranked: World's Largest Clay and Hard Rock Lithium Projects

World’s largest clay and hard rock lithium projects

The lithium market has been in turmoil with dramatic price swings over the last few years as demand from electric cars take off and global supply growth tries to keep up.   

Junior miners are piling into the lithium market with competing new projects — the US state of Nevada is the emerging hotspot and where this year’s top three lithium projects are all located.

In a snapshot of the global project pipeline, Mining Intelligence data provides a ranking of the largest clay and hard rock projects in 2023, based on total reported lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) resources and measured in million tonnes (mt).

These projects will add to already robust production growth with global output set to come close to 1 million tonnes this year ramping up to 1.5 million tonnes in 2025, double production levels in 2022.

World’s largest clay and hard rock lithium projects

#1) McDermitt

Development status: Prefeasibility // Geology: Sediment hosted

Topping the list is the McDermitt project, located on the Nevada-Oregon border in the US and owned by Jindalee Resources (ASX: JRL). The Australian miner this year updated the resource to 21.5 mt LCE, up  65% from the 13.3 million tonnes reported last year.

#2) Thacker Pass

Development status: Construction // Geology: Sediment hosted

In second place is Lithium Americas (TSX: LAC) Thacker Pass project in northwest Nevada with 19 mt LCE. The project was challenged by environmental groups, but the US Interior Department in May removed one of the last remaining obstacles to development after a federal judge rejected claims the project would cause unnecessary harm to the environment. This year General Motors announced it will invest $650 million in Lithium Americas to help it develop the project.  

#3) Bonnie Claire

Development status: Preliminary economic assessment // Geology: Sediment hosted

Nevada Lithium Resources’ (CSE: NVLH) Bonnie Claire project in Nevada’s Sarcobatus Valley slides from last year’s top spot to third place with 18.4 mt LCE.

#4) Manono

Development status: Feasibility // Geology: Pegamite

The Manono project in the Democratic Republic of Congo is in fourth place with a 16.4 mt resource. The majority owner, Australian miner AVZ Minerals (ASX: AVZ), holds 75% of the asset, and is in a legal dispute with China’s Zijin over the purchase of a 15% stake.

#5) Tonopah Flats

Development status: Advanced exploration // Geology: Sediment hosted

American Battery Technology Co.’s (OTC: ABML) Tonopah Flats in Nevada is a newcomer to this year’s list, taking fifth place with 14.3 mt LCE. The Tonopah Flats project in Big Smoky Valley encompasses 517 unpatented lode claims covering approximately 10,340 acres, and ABTC controls 100% of the mining lode claims.

#6) Sonora

Development status: Construction // Geology: Sediment hosted

Ganfeng Lithium’s Sonora in Mexico, the most advanced lithium project in the country, comes in number six with 8.8 mt LCE. Although Mexico nationalized its lithium deposits last year, president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said his government wanted to reach agreement with the company over lithium mining. 

#7) Cinovec

Development status: Feasibility // Geology: Greisen

The Cinovec project in the Czech Republic, the largest hard rock lithium deposit in Europe, is in seventh place with 7.3 mt LCE. CEZ holds 51% and European Metal Holdings (ASX: EMH) 49%. In January, the project was classified as strategic for the Czech Republic’s Usti region.

#8) Goulamina

Development status: Construction // Geology: Pegamite

The Goulamina project in Mali is in eighth place with 7.2 mt LCE. A 50/50 JV between Gangfeng Lithium and Leo Lithium (ASX: LLL), the companies are planning to undertake a study into expanding the combined production capacity of Goulamina Stages 1 and 2.

#9) Mount Holland – Earl Grey Lithium

Development status: Construction // Geology: Pegamite

Chilean miner SQM (NYSE: SQM) and Australia’s Wesfarmers (ASX: WES) joint venture, Mount Holland-Earl Grey Lithium in Western Australia, takes ninth place with a 7 mt resource.

#10) Jadar

Development status: Feasibility // Geology: Sediment hosted

Rio Tinto’s (ASX: RIO) Jadar project in Serbia rounds out the list with a 6.4 mt resource. The world’s second largest miner faces local opposition for the project, but is eyeing a revival and keen to reopen talks with the Serbian government after it revoked licenses in 2022 in response to protests sparked by environmental concerns.

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