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Neo Lithium eyeing operations at new pilot plant; starts drilling in high-grade zone at 3Q property

The firm is advancing the 3Q lithium project in Argentina
The 3Q project in Argentina

Shares in Neo Lithium Corp (CVE:NLC) advanced Monday as it edges toward an operational pilot plant, now that it has been built in Chile and shipped to  Argentina.

The Toronto-based firm, which is advancing the 3Q project in Argentina, reckons it will take 45 days for the plant to be back up together and operational.

It was tested with artificial brine in Chile and the company now is concentrating around 4% lithium brine in its pilot evaporation ponds to start production of lithium carbonate.

Currently, the annual capacity of the pilot ponds is over 500 tons of approximate 4% lithium brine per year.

"I am pleased with the progress made and our ability to ship and commission the plant during the first quarter which puts us on track with our objectives," said Gabriel Pindar, director and COO (chief operating officer) of Neo Lithium.

"Management hopes the proposed pre-feasibility study will support that the plant can produce battery-grade lithium at one of the most competitive cash cost of the market."

The 3Q property lies in the Province of Catamarca, which is the largest lithium producing area in Argentina.

It covers around 35,000 ha (hectares) and the salar complex within this area is around 160 sq km.

Excitingly, surface exploration has shown a high-grade lithium target in the northern portion extending for around  20 km by 5 km with low magnesium and sulphate impurities.

On Monday, the group also said it had now started drilling the northern high-grade zone at the project, with the first well projected to be 300 m (meters) deep.

This zone contains 746,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate in the measured and indicated resource categories at a grade of 1,007 mg/l (miligram per liter) lithium plus 186,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate in the inferred resource category at a grade of 1,240 mg/L lithium.

This high-grade zone represents only 14% of the current resource, however it has been drilled only to 100 m in depth and contains the highest grade of the entire project.

This current drilling program anticipates the depth to be at least three times' that.

"Testing the deeper portion of the northern high-grade zone proved difficult last season because the sediments consist of coarse gravel and sand," said Dr. Waldo Perez, president and CEO of Neo Lithium Corp Monday.

"For this year's drilling campaign, we are using a new rig with superior capabilities and technology, and we are confident we will test the deeper portion of the basin under the high-grade zone this time."

He added: "Increasing the resource in the high-grade zone would have a significant impact in the pond requirement and therefore may have a positive effect on the capex on the project."

EIA nearly complete

Also today, the firm said the environmental impact assessment report (EIA) was almost complete and will be submitted to the regulatory authorities in February 2019. Work associated with the pre-feasibility study (PFS) is also proceeding as planned.

Neo Lithium said its balance sheet remained strong with no debt and around C$43 million of cash to fund the ongoing work at the 3Q project.

The company continues to be in discussions with several potential strategic partners which are currently being considered.

"Negotiations continue to progress, and the board of directors has resolved to formally extend the process to include the PFS work that is being completed to demonstrate the value of the 3Q project," the company said.

Shares in Toronto rose 9.38% to stand at $0.70

Contact Giles at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter @Gile74 

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