The Sal de Vida (Salt of Life) deposit has emerged as one of the largest and highest grade undeveloped lithium brine deposits in the world with significant expansion potential. In April 2013, Galaxy released a Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS), completed on schedule and within budget, which supports low cost, long life lithium and potash operation.
The DFS estimated a pre-tax net present value of US$645 million (US$380 million post tax) at 10% discount rate. Sal de Vida has the potential to generate total annual revenues in the region of US$215 million and operating cash flow before interest and tax of US$118 million per annum at full production rates.
Average operating costs have been estimated at US$2,200 per tonne (net of potash credits) of battery grade lithium carbonate. The total capital cost for Sal de Vida is estimated at US$369.2 million.
A recently-announced maiden JORC-compliant Reserve estimate of 1.1 million tonnes of retrievable lithium carbonate equivalent and 4.2 million tonnes of potassium chloride (potash or KCI) equivalent supports annual production of 25,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium carbonate and 95,000 tonnes of potash over a 40 year period. The DFS has been modelled on an operation with production at these levels. This would take Galaxy’s total annual lithium carbonate production to 42,000 tonnes per annum from 2017 onwards.
The DFS supports the development of the Project, which will include evaporation ponds, a battery grade lithium carbonate plant and a potash plant. The Board will reserve making a final investment decision on Sal de Vida until after its Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant in China reaches a cash flow positive status on a sustained basis, and Galaxy has received funding commitments from its Sal de Vida joint venture partners.
The Sal de Vida Project is located in northwest Argentina in the Lithium Triangle, home to more than 60% of the world's annual production of lithium from brines in the Salar de Atacama and the Salar del Hombre Muerto. The Salar lies approximately 1,400 kilometres northwest of Buenos Aires at an altitude of 4,025 metres. The property is accessible from the city of Salta via an all-seasons road, and there is a major powerline 115 kilometres away.
Table 1: Summary of 2012 Mineral Resource Estimate
|Phase II Resource Category
Brine Volume (m3)
In situ K
||7.2 x 108
||2.6 x 108
||9.8 x 108
||8.3 x 108
Cutoff grade:500mg/L Lithium
New Reserve Estimation
Total tonnages for the economic reserve values provided in Table 2 account for anticipated leakage and process losses of lithium and potassium. Table 2 gives results of the Proven and Probable Reserves from the Southwest and East well fields when these percent estimated processing losses are factored in, assuming a continuous average brine extraction rate of 30,000 m3/d.
Table 2: Probable and Proven Reserve Statement April 2013
Tonnes Li Total Mass
Tonnes K Total Mass
Tonnes Equivalent KCl
||1 - 6
||7 - 40
||40 years total
Note: Assumes 500 mg/L Li cut off
Sal de Vida - Competent Persons Statement
The information in this report that relates to Mineral Resources for the Sal de Vida lithium project is based on work completed by Mr. Michael Rosko, who is a Member of a Recognised Overseas Professional Organisation. Mr. Rosko is a full time employee of E. L. Montgomery and Associates and has sufficient experience which is relevant to the style of minerlisation and type of deposit under consideration and to the activity which he is undertaking to qualify as a Competent Person as defined in the 2004 Edition of the ‘Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves’. Mr. Rosko consents to the inclusion in this report of the matters based on his information in the form and context in which it appears.
National Instrument 43-101 - Qualified Person
The mineral resources for the Sal de Vida lithium project are reported in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 and have been estimated in conformity with generally accepted CIM“ Estimation of Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserves Best Practices” guidelines. Resource evaluation work was completed by Mr. Michael Rosko, P.Geo (Arizona 25065, Texas 6359, California 5236) an independent Qualified Person as defined by NI 43-101. Mr. Rosko has read and approved the content of this news release. A Technical Report compliant with NI 43-101 standards describing the resource estimation was filed on SEDAR within 45 days of its release.
Caution Regarding Forward Looking Information
This document contains forward looking statements concerning Galaxy.
Forward-looking statements are not statements of historical fact and actual events and results may differ materially from those described in the forward looking statements as a result of a variety of risks, uncertainties and other factors. Forward-looking statements are inherently subject to business, economic, competitive, political and social uncertainties and contingencies. Many factors could cause the Company’s actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking information provided by the Company, or on behalf of, the Company. Such factors include, among other things, risks relating to additional funding requirements, metal prices, exploration, development and operating risks, competition, production risks, regulatory restrictions, including environmental regulation and liability and potential title disputes. Forward looking statements in this document are based on Galaxy’s beliefs, opinions and estimates of Galaxy as of the dates the forward looking statements are made, and no obligation is assumed to update forward looking statements if these beliefs, opinions and estimates should change or to reflect other future developments.
Location and Geology
Galaxy controls 100% of the brine mineral rights over more than 385 square kilometres on the eastern half of the Salar del Hombre Muerto. The western half of the Salar is the site of Argentina's only commercial scale lithium mining operation owned by Minera del Altiplano, a subsidiary of FMC Corporation. The Fenix operation has been producing lithium since 1997 and according to FMC's website has a mine life of over 75 years.
A salar is a predominantly dry lake bed within a restricted drainage basin. Normally, the dry climate and lack of drainage results in the deposit of salt and borate minerals with sand and clay intervals. Just below the surface, the pore spaces of the unconsolidated sands, silts and salt bodies are filled with water. Near surface, the water is brackish and below approximately two metres in depth, the water is consistently very salty (brine). In addition to ordinary salt (sodium chloride), the brines also contain high concentrates of dissolved potassium chloride, lithium chloride and boron.
The Salar del Hombre Muerto lies in the high altitude Puna, a plateau comprised of basins and ranges discrete from the much larger Cordillera-bounded Altiplano basin to the north. Outcropping basement at Farallon Catal divides the basin into Western and Eastern sub-basins. The origin of lithium in the brines of the Puna is not well known. The area is underlain by an extensive magma chamber at depths of only 4km and this could be the ultimate source, lithium being transported to the surface via volcanic activity, especially hydrothermal vents. It is not known whether the transfer was as a result of the leaching of lithium-bearing volcano clastic sediments or by the recycling of trapped lithium-bearing solutions.
The Sal de Vida brines average about 780mg/L Li. They also have potassium concentrations averaging around 0.87mg/L K, low magnesium and sulphate. High magnesium content can increase the production costs of lithium carbonate. The Sal de Vida Mg:Li ratio of approximately 2.2 and SO4 Li ratio of 11.5 are low by industry standards. The Salar de Atacama in Chile, the largest lithium producing brine operation in the world, reports Mg:Li ratios of more than 4 and Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia has an Mg:Li ratio of more than 14.
In addition to the brines, the Salar hosts near surface deposits of ulexite, a sodium-calcium borate mineral mainly used for the production of boric acid.