Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting takes major stake in Liontown

Kathleen Valley, one of the most promising early-stage lithium projects in Australia. (Image courtesy of Liontown.)

Hancock Prospecting, owned by Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart, confirmed on Monday markets rumours indicating her company had increase its stake in lithium miner Liontown Resources (ASX: LTR), which recently accepted Albemarle’s (NYSE: ALB) $4.3 billion (A$6.6bn) buyout offer.

Hancock said it has become a “substantial shareholder” by acquiring 7.72% of the ordinary shares in Liontown. Before the boosting, Rinehart’s stake in the West Perth-based miner sat at just below 5% – the threshold above which one becomes a substantial shareholder.

Australia’s richest person, according to Forbes, said she may soon seek a position on Liontown’s board. She has not ruled out launching a bid to rival Albemarle’s offer, the Australian Financial Review reported.

Rinehart owns shares in other lithium producers such as Patriot Battery Metals (ASX, TSX: PMT) and Delta Lithium (ASX: DLI), but the main focus of her investment is iron ore.

Liontown, based in Perth, owns one of the most promising early-stage lithium projects in Australia, the world’s top exporter of the metal. It has supply agreements with Tesla and Ford Motor, as well as with South Korean-based LG Energy Solution.

Albemarle, the world’s largest lithium producer, has been after Liontown for months as its seeks adding supplies of the key electric vehicle battery metal to its portfolio. 

The takeover of Liontown would hand the US-based miner the Kathleen Valley lithium deposit, located 680 km north-east of Perth in Western Australia’s premier mining district. 

The asset is considered one of the world’s largest and highest-grade hard rock lithium deposits, with a mineral resource estimate of 156 million tonnes at 1.4% lithium oxide and 130ppm tantalum oxide.

The project, on track to begin commercial production in mid-2024, is forecast to initially produce around 500,000 tonnes a year of spodumene concentrate expanding to 700,000 tonnes annually in six years.


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