Rio Tinto Aims to Increase EV Battery Metals Position

- May 14th, 2019

Speaking at a conference in Barcelona, CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques talked about how Rio is positioning itself in a lower-carbon economy.

Mining giant Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO,NYSE:RIO) is looking to boost its position in battery metals as demand for raw materials for the electric car revolution continues to pick up pace.

Speaking at a conference in Barcelona, CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques talked about how Rio is positioning itself in a lower-carbon economy, where the environment and climate change are top of the agenda.

“We are looking at options to grow our position in minerals relating to battery technology. A good example of this is our lithium project, Jadar, in Serbia,” Jacques said.

Jadar, which was discovered in 2004 and was named after the Jadar Valley, contains high lithium and boron concentrations. The project is currently in the prefeasibility stage, with significant investment required to move forward.

According to Reuters, Jacques said the company will update the market after the study on the Serbian deposits is completed about 18 months from now.

Pricing remains an issue in the lithium space, but he noted that Rio is becoming more comfortable with the market. “There are 26 steps to be able to extract the lithium,” Jacques added.

The company has already spent over US$100 million to develop the project, with a final investment decision set for 2020. If approved, construction will begin, with first output expected around 2023.

Jadar’s production capacity is forecast at 50,000 tonnes per year of lithium carbonate equivalent, with an estimated total resource of 136 million tonnes.

Despite Rio’s operations around the world, the company is yet to become a significant player in the lithium space. In 2018, Rio Tinto placed a bid for a minority stake in Chile’s SQM (NYSE:SQM), but later abandoned that avenue.

Aside from Jadar, the company also has iron ore and copper projects in Australia’s Pilbara region and aluminum assets in Canada.

On Tuesday (May 14), shares of Rio closed almost flat in Sydney at AU$96.22. The company’s share price has increased 25.53 percent year-to-date.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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