Following my first interview with Mr. Ian Stalker discussing LSC Lithium (TSXV:LSC), I prepared a full transcript of our conversation for your reference. Study this transcript closely to see why Ian is a legend in the junior mining industry! Thanks very much for your time, Ian.
Please note that this is not sponsored content.
PB: Hello, I'm Peter Bell and I'm here with Mr. Ian Stalker of LSC Lithium. Hello Ian!
PB: Wonderful to talk to you -- first chance to speak with you, sir.
Yes, it is. I'm looking forward to the conversation, Peter.
PB: I've seen your name pop up in a few places and I will admit that whenever I've seen lithium I've kind of ran the other way, but it seems like it might be bad enough out there now to dip the toe in, sorry to say. To see all the stuff that's coming down the pipe with LSC here that is just shocking.
LSE is busy on a lot of fronts and I'm sure we'll have the chance to talk about that. In terms of dipping your toe in the water if you like with the lithium market, I read an interesting article -- literally just a few minutes ago. It said the Austrian government was looking to curtail the speed at which internal combustion engine cars drive. Electric vehicles will be able to go faster. The guy was commenting that was a great selling point in Austria, but it's one of many anecdotal points on the topic. London put an edict out not so long ago that some streets in London will not allow anything else except electric vehicles in them because of the environmental challenges they face. There's a lot out there telling you that the penetration of electric vehicles is happening and the growth of lithium batteries is the consequence. The market may be a soft in terms of current pricing for general lithium battery stories, but the demand is there and when the demand is there you can bet the market will follow pretty soon after.
PB: And it's our duty you know junior mining speculators to be contrary and come in when things are looking desperate if there is that longer-term, macro story that things will get better. Demand growth and everything is substantial -- nothing has changed on that side as far as I can tell the last few years, despite all the ebb and flow in the excitement around the stocks. A pointed question for you here, Ian. The supply side of lithium has always been a bit of a concern -- I don't really know much about it and I think there's a lot of rumor and misinformation out there -- are you scared of trying to be a small player in a bigger market?
No, I'm not Peter. That's the opening gambit.The reason I'm not is that it's a small market in general terms and LSC will have a reasonable size footprint within it, so I don't think we'll be a small supplier. You're 100% right in that I can tell you whether it is lithium, or gold, or uranium -- it's a lot easier to talk about building projects than it is to actually build them and bring them online. If you look at what's happening, generally, the normal circumstances is that people are slower bringing things online than they may have originally suggested in their various reports out there. Knowing that you've deliberately set out to be, I think, as pragmatic as possible on the timing of the deliverables for building this plant and, we see ourselves coming online with our first project towards the end of 2021. We have a pipeline of projects, but that 2021 timing goes back to that market scenario we are seeing.
Tesla didn't do as well as they said they would, but they're still selling cars and selling more of them. Whoever will be Tesla number two or number three -- that growth will continue. End of 2021 strikes me as enough time to get our ducks in a row for production at the right time in terms of the overall market place. When investors look at companies, we search for which ones are real and which ones are just paper.
PB: Again, there's a lot tied-up with that. If we hear most juniors talking about project financing and putting something into production, then we often just say thank you very much and move on. For you and this company, I would pause take note a little more carefully. There maybe something about staying with lithium for long enough -- through one cycle and maybe out into whatever comes next. It seems to me that, you can be early for the next wave by being late for the last one!
One of the things that miners don't want to be, Peter, is first off the taxi rack. Invariably, first off the taxi rack has all the challenges of understanding what market they are getting into, how their plant is going to perform, and so on. We like to learn from those mistakes. Most of us like to look at something that's in appearance and ask if we can compare favorably with it. For us, I think we've got our timing right.
Peter, you and listeners to this interview should be aware that I've been lucky enough in my career to have built ten mines from start to finish, from resource evaluation through construction, operation, and then finally full ongoing production for the next 10-15 years. Most of them are still in operation because they were big mines.
When we put this team together in LSC Lithium, it was done deliberately to make sure that we would take this project as far along the line as was necessary.
PB: Despite whatever may come along the way!
Correct. None of us have crystal balls to see the future, otherwise we'd be in a different job. We have to do our job correctly, in terms of knowing how you do your engineering, how you do your planning, how you do your resource calculation, and then target lowest-quartile operational costs. If you can get to that level then you know you can withstand the vagaries of the market that you're in. Lithium, in this case.
PB: I have heard some discussion about lithium recently that's seemed reasonable -- getting away from the salars, in general. Do you see that as a possibility? Would it be a good thing for the lithium market?
When you're in a market like lithium and it becomes exciting because of the demand, you will always have new entrants looking to come in. New entrants will come with potential deposits that have never been mined before. The challenge they have is getting that certainty. The salars have been tried and tested. People have been operating lithium operations in the salars in Argentina for a long while now. It's not as if we are re-inventing the wheel. It's actually just making the wheel go a little bit faster and a bit better. I'm comfortable with the salar operation.
PB: Again, that ties in with a few other things you've just said. Targeting projects that can be in the lowest quartile for costs is important and some of these new tech sources of production suppose that they can disrupt the cost curve-- providing a whole bunch of new production below the existing cost curve. Just hearing you say the word "certainty" is key. Thank you very much for that. Your report may say that you can come in at or below the lowest cost producers, but if that's a novel process then there will be questions. And 10 mines -- I didn't realize it was that number! Congratulations, that's wonderful.
Thank you, Peter. There was a range of commodities, as you can imagine.
PB: And to LSC, I would wonder how did you pick up all these projects? There's quite a collection of things in this company.
Well, I have to give credit to the guys that started the company before I actually came on board, Peter. They had the view that being a reasonable size player is important in all our remaining scenarios for the lithium sector. Being a small player may get you marginalized eventually, so they went about their work and picked up a range of properties down in Argentina that ended up with us owning over 300,000 hectares of ground that is highly prospective within the Solara area. What was most important, Peter, from that collection was that in several of the salars, we are the sole owner. We don't have conflicts with others in the same salar who may own little pieces of this and little pieces of that -- it's much more simple when you're a single owner of the salar. And it's much simpler for local government and the provincial secretaries to award operational licenses, environmental permitting, etc to a single operator rather than a plethora of small operators in a patchwork quilt scenario.
PB: I believe you mentioned past timelines and things taking longer than expected. You've delivered two 43-101 resource reports this year as I gather from recent news.
Again, to come back to what is coming next for the company we have a resource coming for our Pastos Grandes Salar, which will be a maiden resource for us at that particular salar. We own roughly 40% of the salar surface there. That will be coming out in the very near future and I think it's going to be encouraging for us. The reason I mentioned that we only own 40% ties back to my earlier comment about being a large property owner in Argentina and being sole operators, is that it's our intention to take the brine from that portion that is ours and deliver it downhill, I'm glad to say, to our second salar, which is Pozuelos-Pastos Grandes where we have an existing 43-101 resource estimate. That combination of Pastos and Pozuelos is an excellent combination in terms of overall economics. It has flexibility in operations that gives us a distinct advantage over our competitive group.
PB: I saw mention of that pipeline and I had a laugh, Ian. I am very glad to hear that it's downhill! Thank you. It's described as +15 kilometres or so and I was trying to wrap my head around that.
In the past, we've built a lot of water lines because water is a key resource for all operations. Some of those projects I've been involved in, which we briefly touched on, had pipelines in excess of 30 kilometres. The 15 km pipe going downhill is more about letting gravity flow rather than pumping it. That's convenient.
PB: And, to me, that's just an example of how important it is to get some context around bits of information you may find about any particular junior mining company. The things that we read in the news releases are factual, correct, and important, but they're not always the full picture. Little details like that downward-slope on the pipeline are important, but I didn't see that in the news release. I would hate to think someone looks at the pipeline and calls it a fatal flaw or something without knowing the facts. I feel that a lot of the people who have been and continue to follow lithium have suffered some tough times. I'm sure there's some fatigue and I hope that doesn't lead people to miss important facts like that. Anyway, lots to talk about with the new resource estimates and possible optimizations -- how about project financing?
That's where we are at the moment, Peter. We are completing our Preliminary Economic Assessment and that will be out in the month of November. As I mentioned to you, the target we're aiming for is lowest quartile operating cost so that we can stand the pain that will come about if there was to be a depreciation in lithium pricing. I don't think there will be, but I think that PEA will deliver to the marketplace a very robust set of numbers that will put it in a very good position for that 2021 startup date.
One of the things when you talk about ground-truthing the companies and doing comparisons, if you like, is that there are choices out there. It's kind of like Air Canada says, "Thank you very much for your business. We hope you've enjoyed the flight." It's like that for litihium companies as well. We hope you do enjoy the ride in terms of the investment opportunity.
Most companies won't actually tell you, but a salar tends to be a little lake at this lower part of a set of hills or mountains. A lot of the mountains come right to the lake, so there's very little access ground available to put in a plant or such next to your salar. We're very lucky that we have a lot of lay-down ground, which means the earth works and the capital costs associated with building the plant are much more robust. Also, it's a lot easier to permit as a consequence because you're not disturbing the natural beauty.
PB: Again, that's a subtle piece of information that's very important. To hear you talk about the lay-down ground required for an actual mining operation is great. People who followed junior mining and exploration stories may not be quite as familiar with that as they should be. Mines are, effectively, huge destruction projects.
It's true, but we have to do our business correctly within the rules and regulations that exist.Wherever there's an opportunity to make life easier we should take it.
PB: And strategic review -- I see mention of that phrase in one of the recent news releases. No details as yet, but it's noteworthy that it is included. There seems to be some talk around heat-up in the M&A space. Things are picking up and it's good to see you staking a flag there.
It was important that we look at what we would regard as an exit strategy at some stage, so we started that ball rolling a little while ago. What's happened, in fact, is that's helped with other things. LSC Lithium, at the moment, is under-valued in our opinion. And I think our opinion there is validated by a range of people. When you look at the targets out there on the company's value, Eight Capital are saying we're worth about $1.40 per share. We have Cormack Securities saying we're worth about $1.60 and here we are trading at $0.40-0.45. That suggests we are a natural takeover target.
The valuation relative to our peer group in terms of market cap is one thing, but when you start looking at the quality of the assets you find the exact opposite in our opinion. We are undervalued, but we think with the best asset driving us towards what we hope will be a better price. Of course, that makes us a target.
PB: Shareholders rights -- is there a plan in place?
We completed a rights issue about three weeks ago and brought just shy of $8 million into the kitty. Right now, we're pretty well financed going forward. That rights issue gave existing shareholders the opportunity to getting in at a lower level and bring their overall average share price down.
PB: There's a speech from Rick Rule where he speaks about how a rights offering is the most fair way to do a financing. There are some complications around it, but the ability for existing shareholders to invest on a pro-rata basis negates a lot of the Howe Street gamesmanship that goes on. Good to see you doing that as an example of best practices for financing the company at a tough time. Those rights are a huge thing that I'd love to talk to you about more, but I was wondering about a poison pill. Not the financing, but the the shareholder rights plan that public companies can implement to help them fight off hostile takeovers.
Thank you, Peter, for that that summary. You're right, that's the way the Board saw the rights offering too -- the fairest way to ensure shareholders got the opportunity of coming in rather than looking for new shareholders an unnecessary dilution in terms of that shareholder base. We're in good shape now going forward. I personally took part in it because I'm a believer. It was a substantial part and I'm glad to see because I think the value is there. We are now looking forward to the future in terms of the quality of the assets we've got and getting that message out.
We talked briefly about PPG, but I can also tell you that in the not-too-distant future there's a newly updated report coming out that blends the two salars in a PEA. We're optimistic that the PPG numbers will be very encouraging for us and for shareholders. There's quite a lot of work going on. We're working on environmental issues. We're working to ensure that we have the infrastructure in place where we are building the plant at PPG. For example, we announced not so long ago that we have locked up the residual gas supply that's available in that part of Argentina to ensure that we have sufficient power and steam available for the plant. That's a big thing.
In Argentina, certainly in the Salta area, there is decent access and some very good people available to work in the area, but some of the infrastructure like water and power is limited. It's important that companies like ourselves lock that up as quickly as we can to make sure that bottleneck is managed properly.
PB: Thanks, Ian. I've heard a good balance of coverage here between interests of Howe Street and issues on the ground there. I saw mention of the exploration camp with 40 people and the list of community outreach activities -- those might just look like black and white text on a piece of page to some people, but I suspect that you guys are doing the best practices again there.
Correct. They're all part of that package of making sure that all stakeholders are properly behind us. You cannot work without local community support, which is why we mentioned it in that press release.
The camp -- the reason we put the camp in, Peter, is that some of our salars are still at the exploration phase. That camp has been built in a way that in the not-too-distant future, it can convert itself to a construction camp in the next stage of LSC development. It was money invested for the right reasons to do a range of jobs.
PB: Gives you lots of runway! Thinking about the potential for production here and then additional exploration within your own portfolio -- that's the benefit of going through these tough times and being acquisitive. You may not have the share price to do a lot of takeovers of other public companies, but what you have been able to source privately is impressive. Did any of these salars come from other public companies?
They're all ours, Peter. And that's the big advantage of that land package. We've talked just briefly about Pastos and Pozuelos, which is an excellent combined salar that gives us very large lithium carbonate inventory in the ground with that flexibility I talked about. We've also got Salinas Grandes, which is about 40-50 kilometres away. That happens to be one of the highest grade salars in Argentina. The results we put out in the public domain show that it runs over 800 ppm, which is about 30-40% higher than the average grade. That's a great extra advantage LSC in terms of the range of projects in our pipeline.
Then, we have Rio Grande, which is a salar project south from PPG. It has a resource on it of over 2 million tonnes. The big thing about that particular salar, Peter, is that the seismic study we released earlier this year told us that the depth of that salar can be in excess of 5-600 meters. We've only drilled the upper 100 meters. When the drill stopped, we were still in lithium brine grades. Our expectation is that the lithium brine continues to depth. If we've only if we get 2 million tonnes in 100 meters then us guys who are not Einstein can work out what the potential might be.
PB: I was shocked when I saw you talking about the seismic and the AMT, then I saw the 500 meter number! Is there is there anybody else talking about those depths in Argentina like that?
There are one or two, Peter. Just in passing, we also announced that we had entered into a joint venture with an Argentinean company called Plus Petrol. Plus Petrol are a very large oil and gas company operating internationally, not only in Argentina. They have been active in Argentina for many many years. and they know how to work in-country. They regard themselves as operators and builders of projects. The oil and gas space use seismics and AMT in ways that are rather similar to ourselves, which is what attracted them to us and got us talking to each other. There's a lot that they have come into a JV with us on a project called Arizaro, which happens to be a very deep salar. We haven't sampled it yet, but they are certainly a very good partner to have an association with. We look forward to that joint venture and seeing what else may happen going forward. Perhaps, we may find other areas that can be of strategic use to both parties
PB: Again, that question about strategic review and what does the future look like for LSC? People love to talk about the takeover potential around lithium stories. I haven't really seen many takeovers go down in the lithium space though.
It's been limited. I have no doubt, there will be consolidation going forward. The size of LSC is really attractive, whether at the project or company level.
PB: Looking back, how long has LSC been putting together this land package in Argentina?
We started getting involved in 2017. It's really not a long history. I got involved by about September 2017, so I've been on board just over a year. We've taken a large land package and converted it into real genuine projects with lithium resources associated with them. It's going to continue to grow. We've moved from just the size of the land package, which was fantastic on its own, to being one of the larger companies in terms of resources today. As we move forward with more drilling and more information, LSC Lithium could well become the largest resource environment down there.
PB: Great, I didn't realize it was such a recent launch. That's a lot of ground covered in a short period. When you get these big commodity runs, it can be frustrating to look back on the downward slope as the hot air kind of comes out of the broader market around a speculative trend like lithium. But I wouldn't expect just one wave -- the changes that everybody got excited about the first time are still in play! They have yet to play out for years to come. I wonder also looking back even further over your career -- have you ever done anything in lithium before?
No, I haven't. You could argue that one of the other commodities that we didn't have experience when we went into it was uranium. We started a little company called Uramin in 2005, just as the uranium wave was beginning to build up a little bit of momentum. We got that company sold in august 2007 for $2.5 billion dollars. It wasn't lithium, but the same sort of small-market strategic-metal type situation that was regarded as what was the future. It's the same story now, Peter. The world we live in needs cleaner energy, there's no doubt about it otherwise we're all snookered. We are saying, let's be part of delivering what we can in terms of lithium to help that market achieve its goals.
PB: I'm sure some people listening to this would have know more than I do about these salars in general, but a question for you about that 500 meter depth concept -- would there be any circulation of that same water you know at that depth through the surface or is there something separating those horizons?
Peter, that's why we spend as much time as we do on pumping tests to understand recharge-ability. We need to understand how easy it is to pump from certain lithologies within the salar itself, as it's not all just a brine solution. There are rocks, there is sand, there is clay -- you have to understand how much you can pump from it in any given period. When you do so, you effectively develop a hydro-geological mode, which tells you the kind of flows you can expect from different areas, what in-flow occurs, and so on. You strike a balance with the number of pump stations to make sure that you get to a steady-state operation.
As I say, the nice thing about salars is that they are a tried and tested operation. This is not something where somebody's got a good idea. You know the thing about good ideas -- they can take a long while to come into proper efficient operation. This is something that's been done, tested, and does work. It gives us a big leg-up.
PB: Would you say anything briefly about the role the seasons or natural rains play in all this?
It's a great topic. The first stage of the lithium extraction is solar evaporation, which takes the lithium in the brine to a much higher grade before you take it through the process plant. Of course, there are impacts from the snow, rain, etc as water comes down and the design takes into those conditions into account.
If you want to be clever, Peter, then you could look at a good set of years and say "here's our numbers". But most of us with an engineering background tend to look at the worst case and design for the worst case because then you're on the right side of everything! That's the way we conservatively go about our business.
PB: And you can have an average data point that is representative of exactly no-one. Again, as the water melts from the snowpack, it comes through and percolates into this salar system and displaces some of the water with the lithium in it -- where does that go, naturally? I wonder about the water flows before you start mining.
Some of the the snow-melt and surface water makes its way into the salar, some doesn't. The salar is effectively in equilibrium when it has this denser brine material -- before it starts displacing that, it has to pick up lithium en-route. There's a natural balance there that we we obviously take into our design criteria when we're building these operations so that the risk of what you're alluding to with freshwater coming in and diluting it is mitigated and minimized. It's all part of the extraction process and is why you choose an extraction amount that is consistent with sustainability of the operation.
PB: It's essential. It's an essential part of mining. And looking at Salinas Grandes -- Wow! Great name for it.
It's a great project. It's actually split in two, in terms of provincial ownership. There's a boundary between the provinces of Salta and JuJuy through that salar. On the Salta side, we are own effectively 100%. On the JuJuy side, we own about 60-65%. In a first-mover scenario where there can only be one operator -- it will be us.
The grade at the upper parts of the salar, the top 14-15 meters I believe, are some of the best in Argentina. As I mentioned, over 800 ppm. When we start moving on that, I'm going to get very excited as well but PPG was the the first taxi off the rack.
PB: The size of salinas grandes right this map showing five kilometre bars. Wow. It's clear to see the salt on surface there and it looks, as well, like there's some flat ground nearby again.
Yes, there is some adequate ground. It's well-serviced in terms of access to it. Again, that's a difference between LSC and a lot of the other juniors out there: we have these other projects that allow us to diversify our production profile and allow us to grow it. Although we're talking 2021 for PPG, we can see Salinas Grandes and then Rio Grandes coming in there after giving us a nice growth profile through 2021-2025, which is another reason to invest in us.
PB: Looking back at Orocobre, this was a public company company and they had a 43-101 in 2012 on Salinas. I see the note that you're not treating that as a current resource.
We are updating it. We're updating it and we've been doing that for the last few months
PB: Great. It's amazing how many holes shown there. Seems to be a nice setting to work -- vertical holes on a flat surface!
Yes. All the salars are flat, so most of the holes are vertical. With the previous work done on it plus our own data, we are feeling very competent about the quality and opportunity that this salar offers us. We'll be working to get value from it I can assure you, Peter.
PB: And the data that you do generate -- it's good to see the chemistry and all the important technical stuff here that is essential to having a good reception for lithium story. It seems like a pretty die-hard audience who are also pretty sophisticated! I wonder, when you start to release some of these new resource estimates how many people in the world will be paying attention and will be able to really understand what you're talking about?
Well, I think a lot Peter. Although we're in a soft pricing environment at the moment for lithium companies, that underlying demand for lithium carbonate is just not going away. If you have the kind of resources, then people will pay attention to it because at the end it's the quality of the asset and the delivery of that asset into a production scenario that's important. I think we're as well served as anybody out there, if not better. I'm very bullish about our future.
PB: And the exploration side -- again there's a pictures in this presentation of two guys holding an auger drill out there on one of the salars.
One of the things we did around the middle of the year was buy our own Vibracore drill rig. It's our own rig and it's a nice portable little rig. Depending on the lithologies we encounter, it can go anywhere between 3-10 meters meters depth. Of course, as a consequence of that we are able to pick up a lot of samples. That can be very helpful in exploration because it guides the bigger, more expensive drills thereafter -- a lot of excitement associated with continued drilling and continued exploration.
PB: For people who may be thinking about you know what these first 10 meters this is not an open pit mining scenario -- do you get water back up from these auger holes that you can sample?
Very much. It's a brine that comes up that we sample for lithium and all the other chemicals present in it. Then you do what's called "packet tests" to understand the pumpability of this solution.
PB: I see your team around you -- it's a fairly large management team. A large management team in and of itself doesn't always make a lot of sense for a junior, but I would point out that it looks like there's a lot of in-country people on this team.
We've deliberately put on board some guys from Argentina, the Salta area in particular, who have operated lithium carbonate process plants before and lithium brine extraction pumping capacity. We're talking with people who've been there, done that, and earned the stripes. That's makes us, I think a much more respectable company in many ways. People will understand that the experience in-house allows us to move forward positively towards that production scenario.
PB: Is that six board members? Are you on the board as well?
No, I'm just CEO. The board has people. I go to every board meeting, as you can imagine, so it feels like I'm on it but I'm just the CEO.
PB: And can I ask -- an even number of board members?
Yes, that's the way it evolved. It wasn't deliberate or planned, but everyone there has a purpose. If you look at the names in there, then you will see high quality of people who have been in the industry for a long time, understand the business that we're in, and are just excellent at managing the company at the corporate level.
PB: Some people like lean and mean teams, but I'd rather make sure everybody is pulling in the same direction.
The board's more additive than it is negative. I'm very happy with the board. Again, we did this blend of expatriate management and local management down in Argentina, as you noticed, because you have to do the work on the ground. There's no-one who knows the country better than Argentinians themselves. They've been there, done that, and seen the movie.
PB: Is there any disruption to report you know to field operations from local politics or any concerns?
No. We've got a very good relationship on the ground with the two provincial governments and the national government. Again, it is an areas where we've obviously taken time to make sure that was the case. Our local team are first-class at the local community relationships. One of the characters working with us is Carlos Galli, who makes sure that those communities are on board. It's not an easy task as they all have their own agenda items. For one reason or another, he got them to come with us and we've got excellent consensus going forward.
PB: Five employees working full-time on social community engagement at Salinas Grandes? Wow.
Well, not necessarily full-time as they are subcontractors. In fact, they work in other areas too. We have a team of people that work there. Fortunately the salaries in Argentina aren't the salaries paid in Toronto or Vancouver.
PB: But it's probably a lot more meaningful for that local community.
We are an invited guest, as an expatriate, and we have to do things correctly to remain an invited guest. These guys are part of the fabric and understand the culture better than we ever could. Understanding what they're asking us and using people to help us understand that is key.
PB: And looking at the map of the area called the "lithium triangle". Everything continues there -- no disruptions? I'm asking about Argentina and all -- it seems that if you watch CNN then you might have a distorted view of what this part of the world is like.
I think that's a valid point, but from our perspective I can tell you that working in Argentina, operationally, is good. There is a transparent legislation going from ownership as well as environmental and operational demands. It makes life easier when you understand what it is you've got to comply with! Generally, it's a very positive attitude in-country.
Like every other country at the moment, Peter, we've all got our our issues. Whether it's North America, Africa, or Argentina -- we've all got our own challenges but this is a very stable part of the world and one that you can do business in.
PB: Again looking at the map from Rio Grande to Salinas Grandes over a couple hundred kilometers those two projects, with the two PPG sisters in-between. It is a nice project area -- impressive to think that you have such a large land package in the Lithium Triangle!
It is. And the projects give us a reduction in risk. You can have one project as a one-trick pony, but sometimes that just doesn't work out for one reason or another -- even with the best people in the world working on it! We've got a pipeline of projects that gives us extra re-assurance but also gives us flexibility when it comes to challenges that you have to face. What else you should be doing to get maximum value for your company and your investors.
PB: And so far this year, you've delivered two maiden resources and the PEA you mentioned -- a twenty thousand tonne per annum lithium carbonate operation. Anything more that we could talk about there, PEA - PFS?
Well, that's it. The PEA is coming out in November and I think that will encourage us to get moving on the PFS thereafter with a view to heading that timeline for operations kicking in at the end of 2021. Then, that's catching the wave of lithium carbonate demand.
We like the PPG environment -- it's a nice combination. It's a large inventory, although I obviously can't disclose them at the moment because we're still working on final refinement of them. It's a nice, large inventory that gives us that sustainability guarantee of performance and flexibility. When it comes to pumping from one part of the salar to the process plant and from another part of salar, that's something quite a lot of others just won't have.
PB: And the geotech details become really important. The evaporation ponds -- the space that you need for all this stuff. Thanks for helping me learn a few things there, Ian! And is that an inaugural PEA?
Yes, that will be our first maiden PEA. Looking forward to it -- we're feeling bullish about it, Peter.
PB: Well, I would think so! Is there anything else quite like it with the two salars and the pipeline going from the one to the other -- anything else quite like that with with economic studies or in production elsewhere in the world?
All salars are similar in some ways, but different in others. They are individual and that blend of the two gives us this nice flexibility at PPG. I'm not aware of anyone else who's doing that.
PB: Thank you also for including a Gantt chart or something like that in the corporate presentation. Looking forward along that timeline of goals looking all the way out to 2024 and then thinking back to what you mentioned about 2025 is powerful. It's great to have that plan clearly laid out as a statement of intent, even though it will surely be a challenge to stick to it!
Yes, it is a long time out but it gives people a view of what we're trying to achieve.
PB: And most juniors, I find, aren't willing to really put precise statements on what they'd like to be doing really in five years from now. There's a lot of questions with exploration projects around what comes next week, but that may reflect the fact that LSC is in a pre-development stage, as some I might call it.
There's a lot to be done. There's no doubt, but we are very keen to get on with it and make our future as positive as we can for our shareholders.
PB: And for people that might want to look in to details on individual drill holes and stuff like that -- it's kind of beyond me and this interview but you appear to be doing a good job releasing relevant information on geochemistry and the pump rates.
There is a whole gammut of information including lithium grades from top to bottom and the lithologies that are appropriate for those lithium grades that you've identified. It's like your core with a hard rock mine -- understanding what kind of material you're dealing with is key. In this case, you work to understand how easy it is to pump from different levels and how sustainable is that pumping. All that comes together in this hydrogeological model, which reflects grade, chemistry, and more. That hydrogeological model allows you to move forward into your study to determine production levels you should be aiming for. The sustainability is a big part of that going forward.
It's interesting but, again, let me just leave by saying it's a tried and tested operation. The one thing that people can get comfort from is knowing that this is not a brand new method -- this is something that's been tried and tested many times before.
PB: And to that, is there anything that's apparent as a major impediment for either part of PPG on a development pathway?
No. We are feeling very bullish about what we've seen today and what the information that's coming together tells us. Nothing's easy and we shouldn't finish this interview by even leaving the suggestions it is easy, but if you do your jobs correctly and professionally then the answers will be what you want at the end and you'll get a performance that allows you to produce lithium at an economic level that will give a return on investment. That's what we're here to deliver.
PB: Mr. Ian Stalker, President and CEO of LSC Lithium! Thank you very much.
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