Rio Tinto has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Serbian Government for the development of the Jadar lithium-borate project, as the global demand for lithium continues to rise.
Rio discovered the Jadar lithium-borate deposit in 2004 near Loznica in Western Serbia. The deposit also contains the mineral jadarite – the only place the world the mineral is found – which contains lithium and boron.
If developed, production at Jadar could supply around 10 per cent of the global demand for lithium, according to Rio.
The MoU will allow the creation of joint working groups between Rio and the Serbian Government that will progress the project through its study and permit stages.
Rio Tinto energy and minerals chief executive Bold Bataar, who visited the project earlier this month, said the company sees Serbia as a key investment destination.
“The Jadar project is an important part of Rio Tinto’s growth portfolio,” he said.
“A project of this magnitude requires time and expertise to design and bring into operation. We can only do this with the support of the Serbian Government and local community.”
Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić, who met with the Rio representatives before signing the MoU in Belgrade, said the Jadar project will contribute to the development of Loznica and the entire region.
“The project engages domestic and global experts who, apart from socio-economic parameters, pay special attention to environmental protection, without which further progress in unthinkable,” she said.
“Rio Tinto has, so far, invested $US90 million in the Jadar project, and the production start is planned for 2023, which confirms both the long-term character of the project and its stability.”
The MoU will speed up activities related to opening the mine and the subsequent lithium production.
Serbian mining and energy minister Aleksandar Antić added that the project will make Serbia a key producer of lithium and boron, both of which are important for modern systems.
The Jadar project is currently the middle study phase with production slated for 2023 if feasibility studies confirm its viability and after it receives all necessary approvals.