Why is Sibanye-Stillwater rushing into battery metals?

Sibanye-Stillwater’s battery material strategy is primarily focused on the United States and Europe in recognition of the developing need for battery metals for the transition towards greater electrification of their established automotive industries.

Consistent with this, the US Government has declared lithium as critical to economic and national security and has called for the development of US critical metal processing and refining capacity.

Sibanye-Stillwater has identified ioneer as a partner and Rhyolite Ridge as a project that are aligned with the Group’s strategy and the requirement for lithium in the US.

Sibanye-Stillwater has recently announced that it has reached agreement with ioneer Limited (ioneer) to establish a joint venture company with respect to the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project. Sibanye-Stillwater will contribute US$490 million for a 50% interest in the Joint Venture, with ioneer maintaining a 50% interest and retaining the operational management responsibility for the Joint Venture.

Together with the ioneer Placement, the Joint Venture represents Sibanye-Stillwater’s third announced transaction in the battery materials sector following the Keliber lithium and Sandouville nickel transactions. The Joint Venture provides Sibanye-Stillwater with a 50% interest in a strategic lithium-boron asset in the US, positioning Sibanye-Stillwater for value creation and growth in the US battery metals supply chain.

Sibanye-Stillwater is well placed to be a supportive partner and add significant value to the project given its complementary global mining experience and expertise, including its US mining operational and project development expertise, hydrometallurgical expertise and deep relationships with automakers and automotive OEMs globally.

The Rhyolite Ridge Definitive Feasibility Study, completed in April 2020, supports (100% project basis):

  • 22ktpa lithium hydroxide and 174ktpa boric acid average production
  • 26-year mine life underpinned by 0.6mt lithium carbonate and 5.3mt boric acid of Ore Reserves and 1.25mt lithium carbonate and 11.9mt boric acid of Mineral Resources
  • First quartile cost position (after boric acid revenue credits)
  • Strong ESG credentials, with a small mine footprint and a clear competitive advantage from a CO2 emissions and water usage perspective relative to other projects
  • Net Present Value (8%) of US$1.3bn

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