PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Major Rio Tinto has committed $2.4-billion to the Jadar lithium-borates project, in Serbia.
The Jadar project would scale up Rio’s exposure to battery materials, and demonstrate the company’s commitment to investing capital in a disciplined manner to further strengthen its portfolio for the global energy transition, the miner said this week.
Jadar will produce battery-grade lithium carbonate, a critical mineral used in large scale batteries for electric vehicles and storing renewable energy, and position Rio as the largest source of lithium supply in Europe for at least the next 15 years. In addition, Jadar will produce borates, which are used in solar panels and wind turbines.
“We have great confidence in the Jadar project and are ready to invest, subject to approvals. Serbia and Rio will be well positioned to capture the opportunity offered by rising demand for lithium, driven by the global energy transition and the project will strengthen our offering, particularly to the European market. It could supply enough lithium to power over one-million electric vehicles per year,” said CEO Jakob Stausholm.
“The Jadar deposit and its unique mineral, Jadarite, discovered by Rio geologists in 2004, contains high-grade mineralisation of boron and lithium, supporting a long-life operation in the first quartile of the cost curve for both products.”
“We are committed to upholding the highest environmental standards and building sustainable futures for the communities where we operate. We recognise that in progressing this project, we must listen to and respect the views of all stakeholders.”
The Jadar development will include an underground mine with associated infrastructure and equipment, including electric haul trucks, as well as a beneficiation chemical processing plant. To minimise the impact to communities, it will be built to the highest environmental standards, including utilising dry stacking of tailings. This allows the dry tailings to be progressively reclaimed with vegetation and soil with no need for a tailings dam.
Water management will be state of the art with a dedicated facility resulting in approximately 70% of raw water coming from recycled sources or treated mine water.
First saleable production is expected in 2026 at a time of strong market fundamentals with lithium demand forecast to grow 25% to 35% a year over the next decade.
Following ramp-up to full production in 2029, the mine will produce around 58 000 t of lithium carbonate, 160 000 t of boric acid and 255 000 t of sodium sulphate annually, making Rio one of the top ten lithium producers in the world.
Based on this annual production of lithium carbonate, Rio aims to produce 2.3-million-tonnes of lithium carbonate over the expected 40-year life-of-mine.
Jadar will be one of the largest industrial investments in Serbia, contributing 1% directly and 4% indirectly to gross domestic product, with many Serbian suppliers involved in the construction of the mine.
It will also be a significant employer, creating 2 100 jobs during construction and 1 000 mining and processing jobs once in production.
Rio will now seek an exploitation licence and receipt of regulatory approvals for the project development, including approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies, which will shortly be made available to the public for comment.
The EIA is required for the commencement of works, with construction targeted to start in 2022.
Rio on Wednesday reported record financial results for the six months to June, with sales revenues up by 71% on the previous corresponding period, and underlying earnings up 156% on the back of higher commodity prices.