Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) has signalled its intention to take advantage of the looming battery metal deficit, announcing a $2.4 billion commitment to the development of its Jadar lithium-borates project in Serbia.
Jadar is one of the world’s largest greenfield lithium projects, and would represent one of Serbia’s major industrial investments, contributing 1% directly and 4% indirectly to the nation’s GDP. It will also be a major employer, with 2,100 jobs created during construction and 1,000 employment in mining and processing once it is operational.
Rio Tinto is positioned to become the main source of lithium supply in Europe for at least the next 15 years thanks to Jadar’s production of battery-grade lithium carbonate, a crucial material used in large-scale batteries for electric vehicles and storing renewable energy. Jadar will also generate borates, a material used in solar panels and wind turbines.
Upon reaching full production in 2029, Jadar’s annual output is expected to reach:
- 58,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate
- 160,000 tonnes of boric acid (B2O3 units)
- 255,000 tonnes of sodium sulphate
The above figures would see Rio Tinto become a top-10 global lithium producer.
First commercial production is scheduled for 2026, at a time when market fundamentals are robust, with lithium demand expected to expand at a rate of 25-35% per year through to 2030.
“Serbia and Rio Tinto will be well-positioned to capture the opportunity offered by rising demand for lithium, driven by the global energy transition”
Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said “We have great confidence in the Jadar project and are ready to invest, subject to approvals. Serbia and Rio Tinto will be well-positioned to capture the opportunity offered by rising demand for lithium, driven by the global energy transition and the project will strengthen our offering, particularly to the European market. It could supply enough lithium to power over one million electric vehicles per year1.
“The Jadar deposit and its unique mineral, Jadarite, discovered by Rio Tinto geologists in 2004 contains high-grade mineralisation of boron and lithium, supporting a long-life operation in the first quartile of the cost curve for both products.”
“We are committed to upholding the highest environmental standards and building sustainable futures for the communities where we operate. We recognise that in progressing this project, we must listen to and respect the views of all stakeholders.”