THE FIRST shipment of lithium from Core Lithium’s Finniss Lithium mine began loading onto the bulker Rossana at the Port of Darwin last week.

Construction on the mine began in October 2021.

Once loaded, the ship is bound for Fangcheng China, where the 15,000 dry metric tonnes of direct shipping ore (DSO) on board will go on to create lithium batteries used to power electric vehicles and renewable energy storage.

Core Lithium has binding offtake agreements with Ganfeng Lithium and Sichuan Yahua to supply 75,000 tonnes per year of lithium concentrate to each company over four years.

The $89-million Finniss Lithium Project is expected to mine 16 million tonnes of lithium-bearing ore over the life of the mine, which is predicted to be at least 12 years and will employ about 300 people, including contractors.

Mining operations began in October 2022, the first new mine to commence operations in the Northern Territory in more than a decade, with spodumene concentrate production on track for the first half of 2023.

Northern Territory chief minister Natasha Fyles said the loading of the lithium was a major milestone not only for Core Lithium, but for the renewable and critical minerals industry.

“Lithium is the way of the future for both cleaner energy and the Territory economy, with local 300 jobs created for at least the next 12 years,” she said on 30 December.

“Today’s achievement is proof the Northern Territory is the place to be when it comes to opportunities for a greener future and a stronger economy.”

NT minister for mining and industry Nicole Manison said the operation was testament to the Northern Territory’s logistics chains and infrastructure networks, with a port that is “the gateway to Asia”.

“This is a globally significant project for lithium battery production, which will power the future through electric vehicles and renewable energy storage,” she said.

Core Lithium CEO Gareth Manderson said the company had made good progress during 2022 to transition from a mine developer to lithium producer.

In 2023 we will continue this transition and the work required to build a good quality operating business in the Northern Territory,” he said.