Finland, Sibanye-Stillwater has received an environmental permit for the Rapasaari mine and Päiväneva concentrator at the Keliber lithium project

This permit has been issued by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland.

The firm submitted two separate permit applications for the Rapasaari mine and Päiväneva concentrator in 2021. However, the applications were subsequently combined into a single permit by the AVI.

The Rapasaari mine operations will involve the extraction of ore and waste rock, disposal of the waste rock, and water discharge from the area.

As part of concentrator operations in Päiväneva, the firm will undertake mineral processing, tailings and process water treatment, water intake from the river Köyhäjoki, and responsible discharge of overflow to the river.

In a press statement, Sibanye-Stillwater said: “The permit decision from the AVI includes a water management permit for the concentrator and the right to start operations despite the existence of any appeals.

“Since the permit decision from the AVI was published, Keliber has carefully assessed the 144 permit conditions it contains and on Friday 3 February 2023, made a submission to the Vaasa Administrative Court for changes to and/or clarification to six of the permit conditions.”

In the following weeks, Sibanye-Stillwater plans to start construction at the Keliber lithium refinery in Kokkola.

Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman said: “Our aim is to advance the project within schedule while ensuring our environmental impact is as low as possible while we follow the required processes to ensure all permitting conditions are reasonable, unambiguous and will be practical to implement and adhere to”, Mining Technology writes.

Serbia stomps on Rio Tinto’s lithium mining project

In Serbia, Rio Tinto then faced a rude shock. The Serbian government, having praised the potential of the Jadar project for some years, abruptly abandoned it. “All decisions (connected to the lithium project) and all licenses have been annulled,” Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić stated flatly on January 20. “As far as project Jadar is concerned, this is an end.”

Branabić insisted, somewhat disingenuously, that this decision merely acknowledged the will of voters.  “We are listening to our people and it is our job to protect their interests even when we think differently.”

This is a bit rich coming from a government hostile to industry accountability and investment transparency.  The same government also decided to begin infrastructure works on the jadarite mine before the granting of an exploitation permit. Such behaviour has left advocates such as Savo Manojlović of the NGO Kreni-Promeni wondering why Rio Tinto was singled out over, for instance, Eurolithium, which was permitted to dig in the environs of Valjevo in western Serbia.

Zorana Mihajlović, Serbia’s mining and energy minister, preferred to blame the environmental movement, though the alibi seemed a bit forced. “The government showed it wanted the dialogue … (and) attempts to use ecology for political purposes demonstrate they (green groups) care nothing about the lives of the people, nor the industrial development.”

Rio Tinto had been facing an impressive grass roots militia, mobilised to remind Serbians about the devastating implications of proposed lithium mining operations. The Ne damo Jadar (We won’t let anyone take Jadar) group has unerringly focused attention on the secret agreements reached between the mining company and Belgrade. Zlatko Kokanović, vice president of the group, is convinced that the mine would “not only threaten one of Serbia’s oldest and most important archaeological sites, it will also endanger several protected bird species, pond terrapins, and fire salamander, which would otherwise be protected by EU directives.”

Taking issue with the unflattering environmental record of the Anglo-Australian company, numerous protests were organised and petitions launched, including one that has received 292,571 signatures. Last month, activists organised gatherings and marches across the country, including road blockades.

Rio Tinto’s response to the critics was that of the seductive guest keen to impress: we have gifts for the governors, the rulers and the parliamentarians. Give us permission to dig, and we will make you the envy of Europe, green and environmentally sound ambassadors of the electric battery and car revolution.

The European Battery Alliance, a group of electric vehicle supply chain companies, is adamant that the Jadar project “constituted an important share of potential European domestic supply.”  The mine would have “contributed to support the growth of a nascent industrial battery-related ecosystem in Serbia, contributing to a substantial amount to Serbia’s annual GDP.”  Assiduously selective, the group preferred to ignore the thorny environmental implications of the venture.

The options facing the mining giant vary, none of which would appeal to the board.  In a statement, the company claimed that it was “reviewing the legal basis of this decision and the implications for our activities and our people in Serbia.” It might bullyingly seek to sue Belgrade, a move that is unlikely to improve an already worn reputation. “For a major mining company to sue a state is very unusual,” suggests Peter Leon of law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. “A claim under the bilateral treaty is always a last resort, but not a first resort.”

Another option for punters within the company will be a political gamble: hoping that April’s parliamentary elections will usher in a bevy of pro-mining representatives. By then, public antagonism against matters Australian will have dimmed. The Serbian ecological movement, however, is unlikely to ease their campaign. The age of mining impunity in the face of popular protest has come to an end, Dissident Voice writes.

The story of Serbian lithium is once again in the revival phase

That nothing is “cemented” in politics is shown by the revival of the story about lithium and its exploitation by the same actors, and some new ones, not caring much about what they said about it recently, before the elections.

The story of Serbian lithium is once again in the revival phase, even though, allegedly, the topic was put to rest at the beginning of the year. We all remember well when Prime Minister Ana Brnabić declared on January 20 that the government canceled the decree on the Spatial Plan of the special purpose area for the implementation of the jadarite ore exploitation and processing project, as well as that all administrative acts related to the company “Rio Tinto” and its daughter company “Rio Sava”. “All the decisions, all the permits, and we never had the contracts were annulled… This is the end of the ‘Jadar’ and ‘Rio Tinta’ project,” said the Prime Minister at the time, after the session of the Government of Serbia.

This was preceded by mass environmental protests because the mining of the famous “kryptonite”, due to the way of exploitation, can bring more harm than good. Those claims were the main slogans of the protests that took place on Saturdays for three weeks in a row, where tens of thousands of citizens expressed their displeasure and blocked the most important roads.

Due to protests and expressed fear of an ecological disaster, even the denounced multinational concern “Rio Tinto”, whose intention is to invest 2.4 billion dollars in the project to build the largest lithium mine in Europe and one of the largest in the world, decided to stop the project. Jadar”. At least that’s what Vesna Prodanović, general director of “Rio Sava”, the daughter company of this British-Australian mining giant, said.

This stoppage and the promises from “Rio Tinto” were preceded by several decisions of state and local authorities. After visiting Jadar and talking with the locals, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić did not sign the Law on Expropriation and that act will not be in the procedure until further notice, while the Law on Referendum was sent back to the Assembly for correction, so the controversial parts of that act were urgently changed at the request of the alarmed public.

The Assembly of Loznica, a city of 20,000 inhabitants, in December canceled the spatial plan that envisages a mine in that area, and all after the announcement of the President of Serbia and the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) that this will be done and that in the future they will deal with “Rio Tinto” talk differently.

Moratorium and protests

At the beginning of the new year 2022, after Christmas, the President of Serbia stated that he expects the Government of Serbia to terminate all contracts with “Rio Tinto”, but also that his position is that they should not “disrespect the people”. Moreover, he expressed the opinion that a moratorium should be adopted until the end of the year so that the state does not lose its chance and money.

Discordant and, at times, contradictory statements from the top only increased the suspicion of environmental movements and protesters, which is why they insisted on a 20-year moratorium on lithium and boron mining, rather than a one-year moratorium. In that period, the collection of signatures for a people’s initiative proposing the adoption of a law for a permanent ban on the exploitation of lithium and boron began. 38,000 signatures were collected and the initiative was submitted to the Serbian Parliament, but it has not been put on the agenda to this day.

If we look back at the legal and financial sphere, even then everything was not clear and simple, despite political statements or precisely because of them. For the government, which claimed that environmental protection protocols would be respected, it was important that the lithium and boron ore reserves near Loznica are 158 million tons, the calculated value of which is 56 billion dollars, with initial investments of 1.5 billion dollars. The Minister of Mining and Energy at the time, Zorana Mihajlović, stated that Serbia could cover 12 percent of the world’s lithium needs with that project, noting that the value of proven mineral values ​​in Serbia is more than two hundred billion euros.

Was that one of the reasons why President Vučić declared on the eve of the New Year that the “Jadar” project would not be withdrawn even though “some opposition politicians” requested it? Or perhaps it is what the director of the company “Rio Sava” Vesna Prodanović said, that the investment in “Jadar” is the subject of the Bilateral Agreement between Serbia and the United Kingdom from 2002, ratified in 2004, and that that document foresees internationally recognized investment protection mechanisms. Prodanović announced that “Rio Tinto” had allocated 450 million dollars for the development of the “Jadar” project until then, and that in July 2021 it had made a decision to allocate 2.4 billion dollars, provided that it receives the necessary permits and approvals.

Speaking about the protests due to the intention of the company “Rio Tinto” to exploit lithium in the Jadra valley, Vučić said that the company was brought to Serbia and those calling for the protests committed themselves to it through Great Britain. “Will you provide the billion euros we should pay for what they signed?” Or is it better to find a better way to solve the problem. It is important that there is a moratorium, no further activities of ‘Rio Tinta’. We will see what will happen next”, said the President of Serbia in the New Year edition of Večernje Novosti.

That “we’ll see” is just happening. “Rio Tinto” not only did not “bury” its plans, but the CEO of “Rio Tinto” Jakob Stausholm stated that the mining company did not give up on the lithium project “Jadar”, pointing to the reality that it is an incredible resource. That the world needs him. That Serbia needs him… “We have to figure out how to do it. The only thing I would say today is that we haven’t given up,” Stausholm said at a conference for investors in Sydney.

His statement comes at a time when the Government of Serbia is still in the mode of suspending this project, which it has stated on several occasions in recent months that it has been shut down, but also at the end of the “moratorium until the end of the year” that President Vučić spoke of, who today says that he still regrets that he made the decision for Serbia to abandon lithium mining and that because of that he “turned out to be the stupidest president in the world”. Commenting on the protest of environmental activists in front of the Serbian Government building, Vučić told TV Pink that the government did not make any decision, but that he decided everything himself.

“I don’t understand why they protested in front of the government.” When they protest, they should protest in front of the presidency and I will address them and tell them nicely – people, you are destroying the country. The price today is 82,500 dollars per ton of lithium, with these reserves it is 100 billion, because you understand what you are doing to Jadr, Osečina, Valjevo and the whole of Podrinje”, said Vučić and pointed out that Loznica would receive five billion euros from lithium mining and that was the best for the country, but that citizens believed in conspiracy theories, and that the protest leaders were “paid by foreign foundations”.

And Prime Minister Brnabić, who once said that the story of “Rio Tinto” has been put to an end, a few days ago she assessed that lithium is a huge opportunity for Serbia. “Before the discovery of oil, Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe, and after that it was one of the richest. This is equivalent to that. I made the decision to suspend the ‘Jadar’ project because of political attacks on President Vučić and SNS before the elections, but I still think that it is the biggest development opportunity”, Brnabićeva pointed out, adding that she does not see the possibility of reviving the project.

Therefore, it was just a pre-election story, her opponents from the opposition will say, claiming that the new Minister of Mining and Energy, Dubravka Đedović, wants to bring back the “Jadar” project, which the citizens opposed with mass protests, with her statements. They conclude that from her announcements, immediately after the formation of the Government of Serbia, that Serbia will be an important source of rare minerals in the world in the coming period. In addition to gold, silver, copper, zinc, it is also rich in lithium and therefore, as announced, the state will continue to develop mining while respecting environmental protection standards.

Regarding lithium specifically, Minister Đedović said that Serbia is lucky to have reserves of a very important mineral necessary for renewable sources, which are the focus of the whole world. “I think that Serbia should consider how it can use that potential.” It is mine to look at, to consider, to see what has been done, what has not been done and why it has not been done. But all countries that have a natural resource and do not use it are at a loss,” said the minister and stated that there is no use of a natural resource that is not harmful to the environment, but that the only question is what measures will be taken to reduce the risks. minus. The Minister of Mining says that geological research is currently being carried out in Serbia on 178 exploration fields – among which copper, gold, lead, zinc and silver are the most represented.

For the profession, such investigative rights are questionable and debatable because, as Ratko Ristić, a professor at the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Belgrade, often said, one should know that no company will invest hundreds of thousands and millions of euros because it loves Serbia, rather than to obtain exploitation rights. And these are mostly private mining companies that are interested in profit, not public interest. That is why, according to Professor Ristic, it is very important for Serbia that the Ministry of Mining and Energy starts to share exploration rights that are in the public interest, those that will strengthen the geological capacities of the country, primarily the Geological Survey of Serbia, whose experts used to do all the research, and now they are demoted.

Looking for an alternative

There are also new elements in the whole story, such as the search for alternative companies to “Rio Tintu”. German and Chinese companies have already been mentioned because both of them have the possibility to invest in a lithium battery factory and a plant for the production of electric cars that use such batteries in addition to the mine. Allegedly, the opening of the technological center of the American manufacturer of electric cars “Rivian” should confirm that the state will not agree to the mining of lithium and its export if factories for the production of batteries and electric cars are not opened here.

In such an atmosphere, a session of the Parliamentary Committee for Environmental Protection was scheduled for the end of November, but with bizarre twists and turns because the session took place simultaneously in two places. In the Parliament of Serbia, a meeting of the Committee was held, which was scheduled by the Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Environmental Protection, SNS MP Milimir Vujadinović, with the only agenda item on the use of lithium in Serbia, with reference to the impact on the environment and the overall economic development of the Republic of Serbia, as stated on the portal of the Parliament of Serbia.

At the same time, a meeting was held in Loznica, which was scheduled by the chairman of the Committee for Environmental Protection, Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta, who will state that on November 15, he properly scheduled a meeting of the Committee in Loznica for November 25, and that subsequently his deputy Vujadinović convened the meeting in an hour later in the building of the Serbian Parliament. The session in Belgrade was attended by ten members of the board, thus providing a quorum for work. The Minister of Environmental Protection Irena Vujović and the Minister of Mining and Energy Dubravka Đedović were also there, as well as the professors of the Faculty of Mining and Geology Dinko Knežević and Nikola Lilić.

It was at that meeting that Minister Đedović said that “the decree of the Government of Serbia for the ‘Jadar’ project was canceled before the Environmental Impact Assessment Studies, which were supposed to be available to the public and be the subject of public discussion, were completed.”
One should not be too perceptive and, based only on what has been said in relation to lithium in recent days, conclude that the “Rio Tinto” project is not dead but that it is slowly coming back because due to the lack of funds, our country is not able to conduct research on its own and that the work is generally left to foreigners. Concessions for the exploration of raw material deposits that Serbia approves last for a maximum of 30 years, after which the state, if something remains in the deposit, can exploit it itself.

And as for the prime minister’s reference to the example of Norway, we should repeat what Pechat already wrote on that topic. Unlike the oil-rich Arab countries, the Norwegians kept everything in their hands, sales above all. That is why many domestic skeptics believe that all this makes sense only if our country is the exclusive owner of that wealth. Since the prospects and quantities of jadarite deposits have a strategic importance for Serbia, the exploitation of the ore and its eventual finalization should not be left to foreigners, who, in that case, would take all the profit and leave us with crumbs and tailings wastelands, such as those near Bor. The Norwegian example speaks volumes about this – both in terms of profit and in terms of ecology, Standard writes.

Finland, Sibanye-Stillwater approved €588 million ($616m) investment to advance its Keliber lithium project

Precious metals miner Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE: SSW) (NYSE: SBSW) approved on Monday a €588 million ($616m) investment to advance its Keliber lithium project in Finland.

The South African miner said its board-approved capital expenditure program would start with construction of a lithium hydroxide refinery within Finland’s Kokkola industrial park. The area hosts a logistics hub from where the company plans to feed into the European battery sector.

With the operation, Sibanye-Stillwater aims to be the first fully-integrated lithium producer in Europe, targeting first production in 2024.

It will then ramp up to produce around 15,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year, enough for 300,000 electric vehicles (EVs).

The miner owns about 85% of Finnish battery chemical maker Keliber, which in turn owns the namesake lithium project.

“We are delighted to advance and grow our presence in the European battery metals industry through Keliber,” chief executive Neal Froneman said in the statement.

He noted the mine, which will mainly supply the European market, is forecast to have the lowest carbon emission footprints in the industry.

Sibanye plans to underwrite a €104 million ($109m) capital increase by Keliber by the end of January while at least €250 million ($261m) will be be borrowed to fund construction of the project.

Construction of the Päiväneva concentrator and the initial two open pit mines — Syväjärvi and the flagship Rapasaari — will commence once all the environmental permits are received.

The Syväjärvi mine is fully permitted, while the environmental permits at the Rapasaari mine and the Päiväneva concentrator are currently outstanding, Sibanye said.

Eyeing battery metals

The company, one of the world’s largest producers of platinum and palladium, also recently acquired other lithium and nickel assets in the US and Europe. With prices for those and other battery metals ballooning over the past year, mergers and acquisitions in the sector are less appealing at the moment, Froneman has said.

The proposed Keliber lithium mine consists of several advanced stage lithium spodumene deposits with 9.3 million tonnes of ore reserves and it contemplates the construction of a chemical plant near the port of Kokkola.

Once in operations, output is expected to reach 15,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide a year during its mine-life.

Europe has a limited number of lithium mining and refinery projects under development, many of which are yet to secure financing or environmental permits, Mining writes.

Resource Mining Corporation advances due diligence at Finnish nickel and lithium projects

The company has identified numerous exploration targets from what it recognises as an “extremely prospective tenement package”.

Resource Mining Corporation Ltd is progressing due diligence at Ruossakero Nickel Project in Northern Finland, Kola Lithium Project in Central Finland and Hirvikallio Lithium Project in Southern Finland.

Upon review of exploration data, the company has identified numerous exploration targets from what it recognises as an “extremely prospective tenement package”.

In order to further assess the target projects, RMC proposes to conduct field exploration guided by results of a report from Skapto, specialists in geology and geophysics who conducted the review.

“Extremely prospective regions”

RMC executive chairman Asimwe Kabunga said: “Guided by the Skapto Report into the Target Projects, we are excited to now be preparing the initial field exploration program to further our due diligence activities.

“The findings from the Skapto Report and broader due diligence data review have confirmed the extensive presence of lithium and nickel targets within each tenement and we are excited to continue our due diligence exploration works within these extremely prospective region”

Data review summary

In July 2022, the full exploration data file for all Finland projects was purchased from the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK), and the review of this data is now complete.

The data has been analysed by Skapto and from this information, numerous exploration targets have been identified within this extremely prospective tenement package.

At Hirvikallio, high-grade lithium values were confirmed through the review and new targets near the Hirvikallio occurrence have been defined.

The extensive nature of the anomalies within the Hirvikallio and Kola tenements has meant that 18 targets have been defined and located within these lithium-enriched regions.

At Ruossakero, the company has confirmed numerous drilled and sampled nickel-copper-cobalt anomalies within the project and has defined 10 targets.

Forward plan

RMC’s fieldwork has commenced to geologically map, sample and test within all of the targets identified by this review.

What’s more, the vendor agreed to an extension of the option period to exclusively conduct due diligence and finalise negotiations, Pro Active Investors writes.

Lithium project caught in Portugal’s red tape

Savannah Resources (AIM: SAV), the company building western Europe’s largest lithium mine, said on Wednesday it shared its shareholders’ frustration regarding the time it has taken Portugal to review its application, but noted it was a political process over which the company had little control.

Chairman Matthew King said the company expected to make further progress at the Mina do Barroso project this year, which would help Europe reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and speed up its “green transition.”

Savannah Resources said it has been two years since it submitted the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for an open-pit mine to Portuguese regulator Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente (APA).

The company filed the study in May 2020 and it was requested to provide additional information a few months later, which granted it a preliminary stamp of approval in April last year.

APA then launched a public consultation on the project, which has faced local opposition, but the watchdog is yet to announce its final decision.

“We passed the second anniversary of lodging the EIA,” King said. “This time last year, we had expectations that the decision would have been received by now but the finalization of the EIA is a political process over which Savannah has little control.”

The company acquired a 75% interest in Mina do Barroso in May 2017, maintaining a fast paced development approach since. January’s snap parliamentary election in Portugal, King said, had impacted the timing of the assessment as meetings with government officials were postponed.

Europe’s first

Mina do Barroso open pit lithium mine would be Europe’s first significant producer of spodumene, a hard-rock form of the battery metal.

The project holds a resource estimate of 27 million tonnes of lithium with over 285,900 tonnes contained Li2O, at an average grade of 1.06% Li2O, which the company believes to be enough to supply a “material proportion” of Europe’s lithium demand over the coming decades.

The mine will also yield a feldspar and quartz co-product used in the ceramics industry, which will be sold to customers locally and in neighbouring Spain.

Recent results from the latest phase of metallurgical test work program at the mine highlights the potential for lower capital and operating costs than those originally estimated.

Portugal, already Europe’s top lithium producer, accounts for about 11% of the global market, but its output is entirely used to make ceramics and glassware. That’s why Europe relies on lithium imports from Latin America’s “Lithium Triangle,” as well from Australia and China, Mining writes.