Home » China’s Zijin Mining Group Co. to Develop Controversial Congo Lithium Mine

China’s Zijin Mining Group Co. to Develop Controversial Congo Lithium Mine

The dispute over Manono’s lithium reflects the growing competition for green-energy minerals in Africa

by Motoni Olodun

China’s Zijin Mining Group Co. announced on Tuesday that it has partnered with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) state-owned Cominiere to explore and develop a newly created permit area in the southeastern town of Manono, which hosts one of the world’s largest hard-rock lithium deposits. However, the Australian company AVZ Minerals Ltd. claims the area belongs to it and has filed multiple arbitration cases in Paris to challenge the decision.

The dispute over Manono’s lithium reflects the growing competition for green-energy minerals, especially in Africa, where the DRC has vast cobalt and lithium reserves, key metals for electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The DRC government has expressed its ambition to use mineral wealth to produce EV batteries and support the global energy transition. The US has also agreed to back the DRC’s plan to reduce China’s dominance over the battery supply chain.

Zijin Mining is one of China’s top gold and copper miners and has been expanding its lithium assets in South America and Africa in recent years. The company said that its subsidiary Jinxiang Lithium Ltd. holds a 61% stake in the new joint venture, Manono Lithium SAS, while Cominiere holds the remaining 39%. The joint venture will invest $70 million to support humanitarian relief efforts in the conflict-ridden northeast and east parts of the DRC, where millions of people are displaced. Zijin also said it had secured the rights to refurbish a dormant hydropower station to provide electricity to the project.

AVZ Minerals, on the other hand, said that it owns the Manono project through its unit Dathcom Mining SA, which holds a 65% interest in the property, while Cominiere holds a 30% stake and another DRC entity holds 5%. AVZ said it has been in constructive negotiations with the DRC government to obtain a mining license and resolve the arbitrations with Cominiere and Zijin. AVZ also said it completed a definitive feasibility study for the project in April 2020, which estimated a capital investment of $545.5 million for a mine life of 20 years.

The Manono project is estimated to have total mineral resources of 400 million tonnes grading 1.65% lithium oxide, making it one of the largest lithium-rich LCT (lithium, caesium, tantalum) pegmatite deposits in the world. The project has strong potential to become a major source of lithium supply for the growing EV market, which is expected to triple by 2030, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

The outcome of the legal battle between Zijin and AVZ remains uncertain, but both companies have expressed their commitment to developing the project responsibly and sustainably, with respect for the local communities and environment. The development of Manono’s lithium could bring significant socio-economic benefits to the DRC and its people and contribute to the global low-carbon transition.

Source: Mining.com

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