Rio Tinto builds focus on lithium, copper to supply battery materials

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is strengthening a commitment to become a key supplier of materials for battery and electric technologies at the Jadar lithium project in Serbia and at its copper ventures around the world.

The company has made no decision on the approval of Jadar, but is progressing the lithium-borates project through to the pre-feasibility study (PFS) stage for a proposed 2023 production start.

Jadar has been ranked as one of the largest lithium deposits in the world. If developed, it has the potential to supply a significant percentage of global demand for lithium, according to Rio Tinto.

The Serbian site is part of Rio Tinto’s shift to a low-carbon economy, a stance it has repeatedly demonstrated through decisions such as divesting its coal assets and switching to renewable energy to power the Kennecott copper operation in Utah, United States.

Copper, the primary conductor contributing to electrification, also remains the major focus of Rio Tinto’s $US250 million ($360 million) exploration spend in 2019.

“Over the next five years, our projects support a copper equivalent growth rate of two per cent per annum,” Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said at the Bank of America Merill Lynch Global Metals, Mining and Steel conference.

“We have a number of exciting opportunities. One of them is Winu in Western Australia. While there is a lot of speculation and excitement, it is still early days. The initial results from the first phase of drilling are encouraging.

“It’s copper, it’s close to the surface and it’s 100 per cent owned. The second phase of drilling is taking place and we will keep you updated.”

Rio Tinto has more than 70 programs under way with activity in seven commodities across 16 countries.

The company generated over $US46 billion of cash in the past three years, two thirds or $US34 billion of which came from operations.

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