Mining Magazine is making some of its most important coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic freely available to readers. For more coverage, please see our COVID-19 hub. To subscribe to Mining Magazine, click here.
Bacanora - in collaboration with shareholder and offtake partner Ganfeng Lithium - is developing a 35,000-tonne-per-year open-pit lithium carbonate operation in the Sonora state of Mexico.
To accelerate the completion of the front-end engineering design (FEED) process, the lithium developer has appointed Australian contractor GRES to provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for the project.
GRES is already working on other projects in Mexico and recently acquired Hanlon Engineering, which is located close to Hermosillo in Tucson, Arizona, US.
For Sonora, the company will work on the lithium processing facility, providing a fully integrated facility design.
Bacanora also gave an update on how the COVID-19 outbreak was affecting the company.
According chairman Mark Hohnen and CEO Peter Secker, the health and well-being of its staff, partners and local communities were the company's top priorities.
"We will, however, continue to work as best we can within the current restrictions to deliver the final design work and construction contracts that should allow us to finalise project financing and commence site works before the end of this year," their statement continued.
"The company remains well capitalised with more than US$47 million cash in the bank and, together with its supportive shareholders and partners, it is well positioned to withstand the continued effects of COVID-19."
The Sonora project's engineering work has been impacted by delays caused by government restrictions in Asia and North America. Accordingly, completion is now scheduled for the September quarter of this year.
Ganfeng Lithium, like all Chinese companies, was impacted by the travel restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus during February and early March. Although China is now lifting these restrictions, the return to work has been slow, Bacanora stated.
It said Ganfeng's main lithium processing plant at Xinyu was resuming operations, and, as a result of this return to work, the test plant and project team had resumed work on the Sonora flowsheet optimisation and process engineering.
Ganfeng will be providing Bacanora with an EPC-style engineering proposal for the production of downstream battery-grade lithium products from the Sonora lithium plant.
While Bacanora is updating its engineering and contracts schedules, it is till aiming to complete financing for the project and commence construction before the end of 2020.
Last week, Mexico confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Sonora, which led to the local government closing down schools and non-essential business operations. Due to these restrictions, Bacanora's administrative staff, based in Hermosillo, is now working remotely.
The pilot plant will continue to operate on day shift until the next batch of kiln and lithium samples is shipped to the US and China, or until the company is required to shutter its operations following a government directive.
At its UK head office and the Zinnwald project in Germany all staff is already working remotely.