ASX- and TSX-listed miner Orocobre is confident that market fundamentals for lithium remain strong, despite short-term price volatility, and is gearing up to put money into a mine expansion in Argentina, as well as into a prime lithium hydroxide plant in Japan.

The miner is fully funded to develop the $285-million Stage 2 expansion at its Olaroz operation, which will add an additional 25 000 t/y of lithium carbonate, increasing production capacity to 42 500 t/y.

When in full production, Olaroz will produce 17 500 t/y of pure play lithium carbonate and 25 000 t/y of primary play lithium carbonate, of which 9 500 t/y will be supplied to the lithium hydroxide plant that Orocobre and strategic partner Toyota Tsusho are planning to build in Japan.

Final investment decisions on the Olaroz expansion and the Naraha lithium hydroxide plant are expected shortly, outgoing Orocobre MD and CEO Richard Seville said on Tuesday.

In terms of funding the Japan venture, Orocobre is estimating that the 10 000 t/y plant will require a capital expenditure of between $60-million and $70-million, before subsidies. The Japanese government has provided a $27-million subsidy for the plant, which is the country’s first announced hydroxide production facility.

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