LONDON, July 27 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto said on
Tuesday it would invest $2.4 billion to develop its Jadar
lithium project in Serbia, bringing forward an investment
decision that was expected later in 2021, as demand for electric
vehicle batteries is on the rise.
The Anglo-Australian miner expects construction to start in
2022 and last four years, subject to regulatory approvals.
Lithium is a vital ingredient in the batteries that power
electric vehicles, and automakers, including BMW,
Volkswagen and leader Tesla Inc, are
increasingly looking to secure direct access to raw materials
via partnerships with mining companies to avoid bottlenecks and
keep plants at full capacity.
One in every nine new cars sold in Europe last year was an
electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Jadar is in the western Serbian city of Loznica and was
discovered in 2004. It will include an underground mine and
onsite processing facility that will produce battery-grade
lithium carbonate, also used for storing renewable energy. It
will also mine borates, used in solar panels and wind turbines.
Jadar is slated to position Rio as the largest lithium
supplier in Europe for at least the next 15 years, the company
said in a release ahead of its financial results on Wednesday.
"Serbia and Rio Tinto will be well-positioned to capture the
opportunity offered by rising demand for lithium, driven by the
global energy transition," said Chief Executive Officer Jakob
Stausholm, adding that the company would supply enough lithium
to power over 1 million electric vehicles per year.
(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil, Clara Denina, Ivana
Sekularac; Editing by Aditya Soni and Steve Orlofsky)