“Securing access to raw materials is a critical issue for the EU’s ambition to deliver on the Green Deal and the clean energy transition. Sibanye-Stillwater’s investment in Finnish lithium mining means that an African company that prioritizes high ESG standards will become part of the solution, as they will have a firm foothold in a critical raw materials market. This is a great step forward for EU-Africa partnerships in raw materials and we hope to be able to support similar ventures in the future with our AfricaMaVal project.”
Jean-Claude Guillaneau, Project Coordinator AfricaMaVal
AfricaMaVal’s core mission is to support the development of a sustainable Europe-Africa supply chain in the area of critical raw materials sourcing. Specifically, it aims to develop EU-Africa partnerships for the responsible sourcing of minerals, while ensuring co-development processes in the best environmental, social and governance conditions and a long-term prolific business environment for European and African companies.
South African Mining Company Sibanye-Stillwater’s recent investment in Finnish lithium mining company, Keliber, represents a major step forward for these goals. It will be a big boost to African ventures aiming to become part of the rapidly growing European raw materials market.
Pressure to enhance ESG standards has been particularly high for the South African mining industry in recent years; the South African stock exchange requires ESG disclosures of listed companies and the South African government has been proactive in specifically targeting the mining sector through various policy instruments and initiatives to improve corporate sustainability reporting. South Africa is also one of the few countries where local procurement in the mining sector has been formalized in mining regulations, with the goal of increasing local employment and economic development, facilitating technology transfer and increasing training for local staff.
Given the advanced ESG standards now in place in South Africa, the involvement of African companies in the European raw materials market can help inform ESG standards in Europe too and help bolster responsible mineral sourcing, including increased transparency on the environmental and social impacts of mining.
In October, Sibanye-Stillwater took control of Keliber when it raised its shareholding to 85% having previously acquired a 30.29% stake earlier in the year. Most recently, Sibanye–Stillwater’s board approved €588 million ($616.22 million) of capital expenditure to advance its Keliber lithium project in Finland.
This investment project will start with the construction of a lithium hydroxide refinery within the Kokkola industrial park, making Keliber the most integrated producer of lithium in the European market. This logistics hub will not only make supply less risk-prone, butprone but will also help the company to keep a low carbon footprint.
With demand for lithium products estimated to grow by 20 percent per year in Europe and geopolitical concerns affecting non-EU supply, Sibanye-Stillwater’s Finish operations will be a core asset for Europe.
The planned annual production of the lithium chemical plant is 15,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide monohydrate and, by the time the product is launched, lithium hydroxide is expected to be in short supply, due to the ongoing green transition that will greatly increase the demand for lithium-ion batteries in Europe and around the world.
“This is a world-class project in a superior location and, with it, we are firmly establishing ourselves in the European regional ecosystem – and this is only the beginning, as the project is substantially scalable. It’s all systems go now to get the production up and running”.
Neal Froneman, CEO Sibanye-Stillwater