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13/04/2024
Mining News

Vulcan Progresses Toward $825 Million Loan as EU Demonstrates Commitment to Critical Metals

The Australian lithium producer Vulcan Energy Resources has stated that the decision of the European Union to consider an $825 million loan is a sign of determination to increase financial support for projects capable of supplying car manufacturers with the essential raw materials for electric batteries.

Vulcan, whose prominent backers include mining billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting and carmaker Stellantis, is spearheading plans to extract lithium from underground reservoirs of hot brine beneath Germany’s Upper Rhine Valley, as well as geothermal heat from the springs to feed into local pipelines.

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As car companies across the globe look to hasten the shift from petrol vehicles to electric alternatives, ASX-listed Vulcan has already locked in offtake deals to supply lithium to European automakers including Volkswagen, Renault and Stellantis, the latter being the owner of car brands including Fiat Chrysler, Peugeot and Maserati.

Vulcan executive chairman Francis Wedin said the European Investment Bank – the key lending arm of the European Union – last week notified the company it had completed preliminary due diligence of the project, and confirmed it could be suitable for a loan of up to €500 million ($825 million). The project will now require further screening, credit approvals and legal agreements.

“We are ready to go – we’ve just got to get the financing done, and this is an important step towards that,” he said.

Western governments are racing to lock in supplies of a range of essential metals needed to drive the shift to greener energy, including lithium, which is the key building block of lithium-ion batteries that will power a growing global fleet of electric cars.

While most lithium supplies are sourced from hard-rock mines or water-intensive evaporation ponds, Vulcan’s project in Germany intends to use a technology to extract lithium directly from brine while utilising geothermal energy to power the production process, making it carbon-neutral.

Wedin said the update from the European Investment Bank provided an important signal that European officials were getting serious about developing supplies of critical raw materials to reduce the continent’s reliance on imports.

“It takes a while for the wheels to start moving in Europe, but once they start moving, it can become a bit of a runaway in terms of momentum,” Wedin said.

“The direction is clear: Europe is going to produce its own critical minerals for batteries, the European investment Bank is putting things into play, and, hopefully, we are a part of that.”

Vulcan investor John Hancock described the update as “fabulous news”.

“This significant indication of support underlines the willingness to ‘walk the talk’ and bring production of critical minerals within the EU’s borders,” he said.

Hancock, who is Gina Rinehart’s estranged son, said the EU’s looming requirement for mandatory carbon footprint declarations for cars would also provide additional for support the ethical supply of critical raw materials from companies including Vulcan.

Lithium from lepidolite in China or African-sourced spodumene, mined without proper environmental and labour safeguards, won’t make it into Europe,” he said.

 

 

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