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July 29, 2021

Rio Tinto spends large on Serbia lithium mining

A big investment will be made to mine a critical EV battery material in Serbia.

By Graeme Roberts

Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto has committed US$2.4bn (EUR2bn) to the Jadar lithium-borates project in Serbia, according to SeeNews.com.

The project, which is subject to receiving all relevant approvals, permits and licences and ongoing engagement with local communities, would scale up Rio Tinto’s exposure to battery materials, the company said in a statement cited in the report.

“We have great confidence in the Jadar project and are ready to invest, subject to approvals. Serbia and Rio Tinto 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,” Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm said.

Jadar will contribute 1% directly and 4% indirectly to Serbia’s gross domestic product with many Serbian suppliers involved in the construction of the mine, the company noted.

The development will include an underground mine with associated infrastructure and equipment, including electric haul trucks, as well as a beneficiation chemical processing plant to be built utilising dry stacking of tailings. Water management will have a dedicated facility resulting in approximately 70% of raw water coming from recycled sources or treated mine water.

Rio Tinto will create 2,100 jobs during construction and 1,000 mining and processing jobs once in production.

First saleable production is expected in 2026 with lithium demand forecast to grow 25%-35% per year over the next decade. Following ramp up to full production in 2029, the mine will produce about 58,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate, 160,000 tonnes of boric acid and 255,000 tonnes of sodium sulphate annually. Rio Tinto aims to produce 2.3 million tonnes of lithium carbonate over the expected 40-year life of the mine, SeeNews.com said.

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