By Robb M. Stewart

 

Rio Tinto PLC has committed $2.4 billion to a large lithium project in Serbia in a bid to beef up its exposure to battery minerals.

 

On the investment

The Jadar lithium-borates project will produce battery-grade lithium carbonate, a mineral used in large-scale batteries for electric vehicles and storing renewable energy, as well as borates that are used in solar panels and wind turbines.

Rio Tinto said the project would position it as the largest source of lithium supply in Europe for at least the next 15 years, and will be one of the largest industrial investments in Serbia as well as a significant employer with the creation of 2,100 jobs during construction and 1,000 mining and processing jobs once in production.

The first saleable production is expected in 2026, which the British-Australian mining company said would be a time of strong market fundamentals with lithium demand forecast to grow 25%-35% a year over the next decade. Following ramp up to full production in 2029, the mine will produce 58,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate, 160,000 tons of boric acid and 255,000 tons of sodium sulphate annually, it said.

The Jadar development will include an underground mine with associated infrastructure and equipment, including electric haul trucks, as well as a chemical processing plant.

Rio Tinto said the project remains subject to receiving all relevant approvals, permits and licences and ongoing engagement with local communities and the government of Serbia. The next steps for the project are seeking an exploitation licence and receipt of regulatory approvals, it added.

 

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 27, 2021 12:53 ET (16:53 GMT)

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