Ten months ago, the first concrete pour was made in Centenario-Ratones, marking the beginning of the construction of Eramine’s future lithium plant. At the time, 350 builders were working on the site. Today, there are 1,050!

Meeting deadlines despite delivery constraints

On site, the first technical elements of the plant are being installed in the buildings, as is the infrastructure inherent to the mine.

The teams also have to deal with the hazards of the moment, namely delays in the delivery of materials and equipment manufactured in China, which was badly affected last December and January by the Covid-19 epidemic, as well as a tightening of Argentinean regulations on imports. The challenge at the moment is to readjust the work schedule according to the materials already available to meet the deadlines.

The first industrial units of the plant will be commissioned successively from November 2023. For each production unit, two phases will follow one another: first, the ‘pre-commissioning’ phase, which will carry out unit tests on the various pieces of equipment and overall tests of the unit in a vacuum; then the ‘commissioning’ phase, for material tests and performance validation, before industrial start-up and handover to Eramine operators. This commissioning phase will involve the operators to a great extent: it is an opportunity for them to assist the manufacturer and to learn how to operate the plant in the best conditions.

Left: the site in April 2022. Right: the site in August 2022.

Left: the site in November 2022. Right: the site in March 2023.

1st ton of lithium by 2024

The first ton of lithium carbonate is expected in 2024 and the nominal capacity of 24,000 tons per year will be reached in 2025.

On the safety front, the company has a solid record with zero lost-time accidents and four minor accidents without lost time since construction began. The objective of zero accidents throughout the construction site is ambitious: to achieve it, Eramine is deploying 24 people dedicated to safety on the site, and safety officers from the construction companies, at a rate of one officer for every 15 builders.

The site’s ancillary infrastructure is also expanding at the same pace as construction: the main Ratones camp now houses 1,050 people, including employees (operators and support functions) and subcontractors (builders); while the La Blanca camp houses 80 people.