Lithium Americas Corp. is pleased to provide an update on the Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project in the Province of Jujuy, Argentina. Cauchari-Olaroz is 100%-owned by Minera Exar S.A., a 50/50 joint venture company between Lithium Americas and Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile S.A. ("SQM").
On Thursday, June 29, 2017, senior executives from Minera Exar, Lithium Americas and SQM attended a meeting in Buenos Aires with government officials from Argentina, including the President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, and the Governor of the Province of Jujuy, Gerardo Morales. All parties reaffirmed their commitment to support the development of Cauchari-Olaroz.
Gabriel Rubacha, Lithium Americas' President of South American Operations, commented: "We are receiving full support from the Federal and Provincial governments, and we are very pleased with the progress we are making on the development of the project. There are over 100 people on site today and the Minera Exar organization is growing with the recent recruitment of additional executive level personnel. Minera Exar is proceeding with the development of the project and progressing with the early construction activities following a timeline target of being in production by 2019."
Patricio De Solminihac, CEO of SQM, commented: "We were pleased to meet with Mr. Macri and Mr. Morales to discuss the importance of Cauchari-Olaroz, and the shared responsibility and mutual benefits of investment and timely execution of development. We shared with the President our plans for capital investment and employment, and the construction timeline to achieve our production targets. SQM is firmly committed to the advancement of the project and to the success of Jujuy-based Minera Exar."
Increased activity at site. Development activity currently ongoing includes: the campsite construction, additional hydrological tests, drilling campaigns and testing pond liner materials at site.
Engineering and procurement on-going. We are developing the detailed design as well as working with the evaluation of the first construction packages.
Development schedule remains on track. The construction of the first stage of 25,000 tonnes per annum of lithium carbonate production capacity is expected to be completed in 2019.
Strong support from Argentine government. The Environmental Impacts Report for Exploitation ("EIS") issued in 2012 is in the process of being updated. In March 2017, the provincial government of Jujuy reaffirmed in a letter that the EIS issued in 2012 is still valid and states that "…construction may commence on the necessary infrastructure approved in this permit, without prejudice to future adaptations and updates that the mining operator performs with respect to the mining project, which are subject to the analysis of this authority."
Over 100 employees in Argentina. Minera Exar currently employs over 100 personnel in Argentina with recruiting for additional staff and executives ongoing. Total direct employment during the two-year construction period is expected to total over 1,000 people.
To fund Lithium Americas' share of Cauchari-Olaroz capital costs, on June 7, 2017, Lithium Americas closed on the strategic financing with GFL International Co., Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co., Ltd. ("Ganfeng Lithium") agreeing to provide US$172 million in financing. With respect to the second financing of approximately US$112 million from BCP Innovation Pte Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bangchak Corporation Public Company Ltd. ("Bangchak"), closing is expected to occur around mid-July.
As part of the Bangchak strategic financing, Mr. Chaiwat Kovavisarach, Bangchak's President and CEO, has been included in the management slate for the Board of Directors to be elected at the Company's upcoming AGM on August 14, 2017.