Sibanye-Stillwater has entered the battery metals sector after securing a 30 percent stake in Keliber, a Finland-based lithium producer. Photographer Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)
Sibanye-Stillwater has entered the battery metals sector after securing a 30 percent stake in Keliber, a Finland-based lithium producer. Photographer Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)

Sibanye-Stillwater enters the battery metals sector

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Feb 24, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - JSE- AND NEW YORK- listed precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater has entered the battery metals sector after securing a 30 percent stake in Keliber, a Finland-based lithium producer.

Sibanye and Keliber signed a €40 million (R714m) bridge financing agreement that will enable Keliber to advance its lithium project in Central Ostrobothnia, Finland, creating the first vertically integrated lithium producer in Europe.

Sibanye-Stillwater said yesterday that it would make an initial phased equity investment of €30m, for a 30 percent equity shareholding into Keliber.

Sibanye-Stillwater said a further €10 million equity issuance would simultaneously be offered to the existing Keliber shareholders, on the same terms as Sibanye-Stillwater’s €30m investment.

Sibanye-Stillwater chief executive Neal Froneman said lithium was viewed as one of the core metals to benefit from the significant growth forecast for the electric vehicle sector, adding that the acquisition was in line with the group’s strategic objective of entering the battery metals industry.

“Our investment in Keliber represents a strategic partnership of complementary skills and capabilities and a shared vision to be a preferred provider of responsibly sourced battery grade materials for the market,” Froneman said.

He said it also offered the opportunity for further geographic diversification in an attractive mining destination as well as to forge long-term relationships with established lithium industry players that had a shared vision of supplying the electric vehicle supply chain.

Lithium demand is expected to surge as a result of increasing digitalisation and electrification of transportation.

Keliber chief executive Hannu Hautala said Keliber’s goal was to be the first European company producing sustainable, high-purity, battery grade lithium hydroxide from its own ore.

“This agreement responds to the fast-growing need of lithium in the era of electric transport, renewable energy and electrification of consumer products,” Hautala said.

The Keliber project consists of several advanced stage lithium spodumene deposits, with significant exploration upside in close proximity to the existing project. Based on a feasibility study completed in 2019 and improved in 2020, Keliber currently has 9.3 million tons of ore reserves, sufficient for more than 13 years of operation.

Keliber, which is majority owned by the Finnish Minerals Group, aims to start production in 2024, with planned annual battery grade lithium hydroxide production of 15 000 tons.

The project includes the development of a chemical plant in Kokkola, approximately 50km from the mining area, is expected to produce battery grade lithium hydroxide.

Sibanye-Stillwater said Finland represented an attractive low risk mining jurisdiction, a top five jurisdiction in the Fraser Institute and had developed a National Battery Strategy that outlined the objectives for the country to become a competitive, competent and sustainable player in the international battery industry.

“Europe is rapidly becoming a leading hub for the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles and Keliber’s location in Finland enables efficient transport of lithium hydroxide to European customers,” Sibanye-Stillwater said.

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