JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Diversified mining major Rio Tinto signals that it is eager to join the lithium rush, with its lithium-borate deposit in Serbia being seen as a “strategically important” project for the group.
In a Rio Tinto publication released on Thursday, Rio Tinto CEO for diamonds and minerals, Alan Davies, described the lithium-borate project in the Jadar basin as “exciting”. He said that lithium was a resource that was expected to be in high demand in future, owing to growth in the electric vehicle (EV) market.
Rio Tinto has earmarked $20-million for the Serbian project until the end of 2017, to complete the studies required for the prefeasibility stage and to obtain a resource reserve certificate from the Serbian government. To date, Rio Tinto has invested $70-million in the Jadar project.
The company’s geologists discovered a new lithium sodium borosilicate mineral in the Jadar basin in 2004 and two years later, jadarite was officially confirmed as a new mineral. Jadarite contains lithium and borates and Serbia is the only known source of the mineral.
Rio Tinto believed that the Jadar lithium-borate deposit was among the largest lithium deposits in the world. If developed, the Jadar project could supply over 10% of the world’s lithium demand. The fastest-growing application for the mineral was lithium batteries, with particularly strong demand from EVs.
The Rio Tinto M2M publication stated that the world market for EVs was expected to increase to more than ten-million vehicles by 2022 – about ten time the market size in 2014.