Rio Tinto Minerals, the non-metallic division of
Anglo-Australian mining behemoth, Rio Tinto Plc, has secured a
licencing agreement and committed funding necessary to complete
a prefeasibility study (PFS) at its Jadar lithium-borates
project in Serbia by the end of 2017.
More than $20m will be invested in the project between now
and late next year in order to complete the PFS and obtain a
resource reserve certificate from the Serbian government.
Rio said that the planned work will assess the technical,
environmental, economic and social viability of Jadar, the
outcome of which will determine if it can be advanced to
The latest investment of $20m comes on top of over $70m
invested in the project by Rio to date.
"The funding supports our local team of experts and funds
all aspects of the [PFS] work – equipment, personnel,
geological, environmental and social obligations," a Rio
spokesperson told IM.
The Serbian government recently passed a law on mining and
geological exploration, which Rio said makes the country more
attractive in terms of foreign direct investment in large
"It creates greater efficiency," the spokesperson said. "It
makes it easier to get foreign direct investment into the
Dragan Milosevic, managing director of consultancy, Serbia
Mining, told IM that a key element of the new
law was that it gives security of tenure. "It sets down various
time limits for different things so that while you are
exploring, no one else can come in and take the land," he
The project is based on the extraction of lithium and
borates from jadarite, a mineral unique to Serbia, which was
discovered in 2004 at the site and holds the same chemical
composition as the fictional rock kryptonite.
Rio has declared an inferred inferred resource estimate of
125.3m tonnes jadarite at the site with a weighted average
lithium oxide (Li2O) concentration of 1.8% and 16.2m
tonnes boron trioxide (B2O3) for the
deposit’s lower zone.
The company said that if it proceeds to development, Jadar
could supply more than 10% of the world’s lithium
The Rio spokesperson noted reaching operational capacity at
the site would take several years, however, and would be
dependent on a number of factors progressing according to plan.
Milosovic predicted it would take five-to-six years from today
to reach production, if the project is deemed feasible.
Rio already has a borates operation at Boron in Southern
California, from which it supplies 30% of the
world’s refined borates. It expects to produce
500,000 tonnes boric oxide in 2016.
Jadar would be the company’s first exposure to
the lithium market.