Zijin Mining launches first lithium exploration project in DRC

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China’s Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd has officially launched its first lithium exploration project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The project follows a joint venture with (DRC)-owned firm Cominiere. The joint venture, called Katamba Mining, has secured mining rights to two greenfield exploration and mining projects at the periphery of the Manono lithium mine in the DRC. This is return will enhance Zijin’s competitiveness in new energy minerals.

Manono lithium mine is controlled by Australia’s AVZ Minerals (AVZ.AX), and the mine’s reserves of lithium oxide reach 8.78 million tonnes, the statement said. Earlier in November, Zijin Mining had also approved investment in a smelter for its Kamoa-Kakula copper project alongside Ivanhoe Mines (IVN.TO) in the DRC in a move to reduce reliance on third-party smelters.

Lithium demand

Global demand for lithium is rising as the mineral is used in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. In 2030, the total global demand for lithium is expected to reach 1.79 million metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent. Increases in battery demand will be a strong driver of lithium consumption in the near future.

Seaborne lithium carbonate prices have gained 413% since the start of 2021 to $32,600/mt CIF North Asia on Dec. 14, while lithium hydroxide prices have climbed 254% over the same period to $31,900/mt CIF North Asia, according to S&P Global Platts data. Lithium prices were due to remain strong going into 2022, according to a number of market players, due to bullish supply-demand dynamics.

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, lithium chemical supply is forecast to 636,000 mt lithium carbonate equivalent in 2022, up from 408,000 mt in 2020 and an estimated 497,000 mt in 2021.

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