Back in July of 2021 global mining group Rio Tinto noted that had committed USD 2.4 bln to the Jadar lithium-borates project in Serbia, one of the world’s largest greenfield lithium projects-with the Jadar project, thus potentially scaling up Rio Tinto’s exposure to battery materials and set to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate, which is a critical mineral used in large scale batteries for electric vehicles and storing renewable energy.
Interestingly, also in 2021—also according to Rio Tinto–Rio Tinto and InoBat signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to accelerate the establishment of a “cradle to cradle” battery manufacturing and recycling value chain in Serbia. The partnership was set to cover the full commodity life-cycle from mining through to recycling of lithium.
Now Inobat has stated that it has signed declarations of intent with the Serbian government to build an electric vehicle battery production facility, set to open in 2025, according to various media reports and Reuters.
The latter added that the Serbian government will provide funding to the tune of EUR 419 mln in the form of grants and tax incentives.
Noteworthy also is that Rio Tinto’s Jadar project in Serbia, one of the largest greenfield lithium projects in development, has the potential to produce approximately 55,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium carbonate in Europe–which is one of the world’s largest growing electric vehicles markets. That said, media reports did not state whether or not the Serbian government-supported Inobat factory is Rio Tinto-linked.
In fact, Rio Tinto has dealt with an on-again, off-again relationship with Serbia—in part due to green protests and the reported revoking of its mining rights in January 2022 by the government. Yet since green groups have stated that the Jadar project is still going forward, and Riot Tinto stated in May that it wanted to re-open talks with the government to restart Jadar.
InoBat, a European based battery manufacturer with a battery research and development facility and a pilot plant being developed in Slovakia has long intended to scale up its future production, through “gigafactories” to be built in the EMEA region. InoBat’s stated goal is to serve the European market with innovative energy solutions, including production and recycling of electric vehicle batteries.
In mid-November 2021 managing director of Rio Tinto’s borates and lithium businesses, Marnie Finlayson, noted that the “collaboration with InoBat would enable an important exchange of knowledge and information on lithium processing, recycling and technologies for the next generation of batteries.
“It is a visionary initiative and one that is aligned with Rio Tinto’s commitment to partnerships that provide solutions to combat climate change,” he added.
The collaboration between Jadar and InoBat was also set to “encourage the development of a complete European lithium and electric vehicle battery value chain” that would “harness and enhance local skills, environmental, social and governance standards and cross-border interactions for the benefit of Serbia and other European economies that wish to collaborate,” according to a 2021 Rio Tinto press release.
In the same release, Marian Bocek, chief executive officer of InoBat Auto said that “the signing of Memorandum of Understanding with Rio Tinto represents an important step in achieving InoBat’s goal to utilise a European-based value chain and support European bid for technological independence.
“Our unique ‘cradle to cradle’ approach covers the whole life-cycle of batteries from mining to recycling, in order to underpin circular economy efforts and the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
Photo of Rio Tinto’s West Angeles projects courtesy the U.S. Consulate General Perth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.