Kumba becomes sole owner of Sishen mine
Kumba, the South African arm of mining giant Anglo American, has announced this week that the Department of Mineral Resources has granted a remaining undivided share of the minig right for the Sishen mine to Kumba’s very own subsidiary, Sishen Iron Ore Company (SIOC).
SIOC, drumroll, is now the sole and exclusive holder of the right mine iron ore and quartize at the mine.
Commenting on the news, Themba Mkhwanazi, CEO of Kumba said “Kumba welcomes the news of being awarded the residual right for the Sishen mine. As our track record shows clearly, Kumba is fully committed to transformation and will continue contributing towards the achievement of South Africa’s developmental objectives. We appreciate the work of the Department of Mineral Resources in bringing this matter to a successful conclusion.
A few facts about the Sishen Mine
It is located around 30km away from the town of Kathu in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.
Sishen is one of the largest iron ore producing open pit mines in the world at 14km long. The very first ore was produced at the mine back in 1976 following the completion of the 862km Sishen-Saldanha railway line.
Mining operations actually date back further to 1947.
Sishen makes up the bulk of iron ore production across Anglo American, with the company producing 44.9Mt of Iron Ore in 2015.
The mine actually holds a record for the company, in 2010 it produced a record 41 million tonnes of iron ore.
There are enough reserves at the mine to sustain a 19-year life of mine.
With the exception of the South African government, Sishen mine is Northern Cape’s largest employer, with a total of 8,233 employees by the end of 2012 – 2014 period.
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British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.