Keliber is aiming to take its namesake €340 million project into production in 2024 and be the first European company to responsibly produce high-purity, battery-quality lithium hydroxide from its own ore, CEO Hannu Hautala said.
Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman had flagged making "one or two" tech metals acquisitions this year as the South Africa-based PGM miner delivered record financial results last week.
Froneman had also lamented South Africa's poor investment climate during the presentation and said yesterday the Keliber deal offered "further geographic diversification in an attractive mining destination and the opportunity to forge long term relationships with established lithium industry players that have a shared vision of supplying the electric vehicle supply chain".
Under the agreement, which is subject to approval by South Africa's Reserve Bank, Sibanye-Stillwater has a guaranteed option to achieve a majority shareholding in Keliber, following the completion of an updated feasibility study, by contributing further equity financing for development of the project.
Keliber said it would issue a further €10 million in equity to existing shareholders on the same terms, which weren't specified.
The resulting €40 million was expected to progress Keliber "to a build ready phase", enabling further detailed mining optimisation studies, permitting, metallurgical test work and detailed engineering design.
An updated feasibility study was expected within two years. The company was aiming to achieve debt and equity finance for the project by the second half of 2022.
A 2020 study had estimated a 13-year operation based on several spodumene deposits with 9.3 million tonnes of reserves, producing 15,000t of battery-grade lithium hydroxide annually from a plant to be built 50km from the mining area.
State-owned Finnish Minerals Group is Keliber's largest shareholder.
Sibanye-Stillwater shares (JSE: SSW) closed down 4.2% yesterday to R67.29 but remain near a one-year high of R72, valuing the company about R199 billion (US$13.7 billion).