Rio Tinto sees building its own lithium mines as better than buying

Rio’s Jadar project has an estimated production capacity of 55,000 tonnes per year. (Image courtesy of Rio Tinto.)

Rio Tinto Group wants to be a “meaningful” lithium producer, but is more focused on finding and building its own mines than joining the wave of dealmaking engulfing the industry, said chief executive officer Jakob Stausholm.

“We would rather use our competencies to develop the projects ourselves,” Stausholm in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “Lithium companies right now are very expensive. We can believe we can find much cheaper ways to get it done.”

The world’s second-largest mining company is actively looking to grow in lithium, a key ingredient to make batteries for electric vehicles, a strategy that sets it apart from rivals like BHP Group that have so far steered clear of the tiny but fast-growing market.

Rio has already bought a mine in Argentina for $825 million, while plans for a flagship lithium project in Serbia were dashed last year when the government blocked the development after thousands of protesters took to the streets to oppose it.

Stausholm also confirmed that the company has secured exploration land to look for lithium in Western Australia — where its giant iron ore mines that drive its profit are based. The region has been at the center of major dealmaking in the industry.

(By Thomas Biesheuvel and Katie Greifeld)


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