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By Shane Lasley
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Rio Tinto commits $2.4B for lithium mine

Annual Serbian mine output will be enough for 1 million EVs Metal Tech News – July 28, 2021


Last updated 8/3/2021 at 3:21pm

Mercedez Benz Daimler AG Rio Tinto Jadar Serbia jadarite lithium-ion battery

Daimler AG

A Serbian mine capable of producing enough lithium each year for batteries powering 1 million electric vehicles will be good news from European automakers such as Mercedes-Benz, which is rapidly transitioning its fleet to electric.

With the goal of producing 58,000 metric tons of the lithium carbonate needed for the batteries powering electric vehicles and storing renewable energy each year, global miner Rio Tinto has committed US$2.4 billion to the development of Jadar in Serbia, one of the world's largest greenfield lithium projects.

"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," said Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm.

The company says the lithium recovered from its proposed mine at Jadar would be enough to manufacture the batteries powering 1 million EVs per year.

"This is a significant moment for the lithium industry," said Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Managing Director Simon Moores. "It marks the first time big outside money from a single miner or chemical maker has entered lithium and invested in an entirely new source."

Not only is Jadar a new source, but it represents a completely unique lithium mineral know as jadarite.

Discovered by Rio Tinto geologists in 2004, jadarite contains high-grade boron and lithium mineralization.

As such, Jadar will produce borates used in solar panels and wind turbines alongside the battery-grade lithium carbonate needed for lithium-ion batteries.

The Jadar operation proposed by Rio Tinto will include an underground mine with associated infrastructure and equipment, including electric haul trucks, as well as a processing plant to produce 58,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate, 160,000 metric tons of boric acid, and 255,000 metric tons of sodium sulfate per year.

While this rate would elevate Rio Tinto among the top ten lithium producers in the world, Benchmark foresees even higher production out of Jadar.

"While expectation is that Rio Tinto will produce lithium carbonate at a run rate of 58,000 tonnes at full production, the strategy is usually more aggressive once proof of production is achieved and the product is accepted by battery and EV makers," Moores penned in a July 27 statement on the Rio Tinto announcement.

First, however, Rio Tinto must gain the regulatory licenses and approvals to develop the world-class lithium-boron mine.

To minimize the impact to Serbian communities near the proposed mine, Rio Tinto says it will develop Jadar to the highest environmental standards. This includes using dry stacking to store tailings. While more expensive to implement and operate than traditional tailings storage, this innovative method allows the dry tailings to be progressively reclaimed with vegetation and soil with no need for a tailings dam and the concerns that come with that.

The global miner said it will also implement state-of-the-art water management at Jadar, with a dedicated facility resulting in roughly 70% of the raw water used at the operation coming from recycled sources or treated mine water.

Mercedez Benz Daimler AG Rio Tinto Jadar Serbia jadarite lithium-ion battery

Rio Tinto

Jaderite is a new high-grade boron and lithium mineral discovered by Rio Tinto geologists during 2004 drilling at Jadar.

"We are committed to upholding the highest environmental standards and building sustainable futures for the communities where we operate," said Stausholm. "We recognize that in progressing this project, we must listen to and respect the views of all stakeholders."

If approved and put into production, Jadar would significantly bolster the Serbian economy –contributing 1% directly and 4% indirectly to the country's GDP, as well as creating 2,100 jobs during construction and 1,000 mining and processing jobs once in production.

Rio Tinto hopes to get regulatory approvals to begin construction of this critical battery metals project by next year and begin delivering lithium carbonate and borates to the market by 2026.

The global mining company currently aims to produce 2.3 million metric tons of lithium carbonate over an expected 40-year life of mine at Jadar.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

With more than 14 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 907-726-1095


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