January 7, 2022: Mining giant Rio Tinto has placed a further stake in the battery industry with the purchase of the Argentinian lithium brine project Rincon for $825 million, the firm announced on December 21.
“The market fundamentals for battery grade lithium carbonate are strong, with lithium demand forecast to grow 25%-35% a year over the next decade with a significant supply shortage expected from the second half of this decade,” it says.
The Rincon project is strategically placed in the heart of what has become known as the ‘Lithium Triangle’ in South America, which spans parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
Rincon itself is undeveloped so far, but “holds the potential to deliver a significant new supply of battery-grade lithium carbonate, to capture the opportunity offered by the rising demand driven by the global energy transition”, said Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm.
“It is expected to be a long life, low-cost asset that will continue to build the strength of our battery materials portfolio, with our combined lithium assets spanning the US, Europe and South America,” he said.
Rio Tinto says the technology it uses to extract the metal has the potential to increase the amount of lithium produced compared with the solar evaporation ponds that are mostly used.
Rio Tinto said in November that it plans to support the construction of a gigafactory of Slovak battery technology and manufacturing company Inobat in Serbia where the group is developing its Jadar project for production of battery grade lithium carbonate.