The board of diversified miner Sibanye-Stillwater has approved a new fund called the BioniCCubE to foster research and development (R&D) of new innovations and technologies, as well as market development, by investing in and leveraging strategic partnerships.
“This will support the company on our path to embracing digital technology and becoming a climate-change-resilient business as a leading supplier of green metals and energy solutions,” Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman and chairperson Dr Vincent Maphai said jointly in Sibanye’s 2021 Integrated Report.
BioniCCubE will operate as a closed-end fund, fully financed by Sibanye with a capital budget of up to 1.5% a year of group-adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation for appropriate investments.
Two initial investments have been made by Sibanye.
The first investment was made in financial technology company Glint Pay, which operates in the UK, the US and Japan, and which uses gold as an alternative global currency to enable its clients to instantly buy, sell, save, spend and send their physical gold and other currencies. This is done using the Glint Mastercard and Glint application.
Glint offers no credit facilities, but it allows users to transfer, receive and save real gold, which is secured in security company Brink’s vaults in Switzerland. The partnership with Glint enables Sibanye to support new end markets for gold on an innovative, digital and highly regulated platform, backed by physical gold supervised by a world-class regulator in Switzerland.
The second investment made was into French industrial company Verkor.
Verkor intends to ramp up low-carbon battery manufacturing facilities in France and southern Europe to meet the growing demand for electric mobility and stationary battery storage in Europe.
Verkor’s first gigafactory will be built at the port city of Dunkirk in France, with first delivery of low-carbon high performance batteries for electric vehicles planned for July 2025.
The initial manufacturing capacity of 16 GWh in 2025 is expected to expand to 50 GWh by 2030.
Froneman and Maphai noted that Verkor also enjoyed the support of several vehicle and technology companies such as Renault, Demeter, EIT InnoEnergy Groupe IDEC, Schneider Electric, Capgemini, Arkema and Tokai COBEX.
Sibanye made a strategic €25-million investment in Verkor through a new convertible bond issuance.
This strategic investment will pave the way for further technical and commercial cooperation between Sibanye and Verkor, Froneman and Maphai said.
They further noted that the development timelines for Sibanye’s Keliber lithium project in Finland, its Sandouville nickel refinery extension in France to target specific nickel battery metal products, and Verkor’s first gigafactory were largely in sync.
“The global shift towards more socially and environmentally aware behaviours and policies continues to gain momentum, with emphasis on climate change. Future investment in renewable energy and other green industrial activity is likely to support demand for commodities required for the green energy economy, especially those produced with minimal negative environmental and social impacts,” Froneman and Maphai said.
In particular, this included the essential metals that Sibanye produced and was targeting as it positioned itself to create sustainable value through further delivery on the company’s green metals strategy.
“We have reconceptualised our battery metals growth intentions previously presented as a fourth sigmoid curve to become part of an integrated portfolio of green metals.
“Our portfolio of metals is complemented by increasingly green production through recycling and tailings retreatment. Including gold, our ultimate aim is to build a comprehensive portfolio that is robust to global dislocations to promote sustainability and contribute to the reversal of climate change,” Froneman and Maphai concluded.