UPDATE: Kibali Gold Mine
Press Release--The ongoing search for additional reserve ounces at Kibali will secure its future as a long-life mine and one of Africa’s largest gold producers, according to Randgold Resources chief executive Mark Bristow. Randgold develops and operates the mine, which it owns in partnership with AngloGold Ashanti and the Congolese parastatal SOKIMO.
In 2014, its first full year of operation, the Kibali gold mine produced 526,627 ounces of gold at a total cash cost of $573/oz and Bristow told a media briefing here that production and cost for the first quarter of 2015 were likely to be within guidance.
“When you’re producing gold at the rate of around 600,000 ounces per year, the need to replace the reserves that are consumed is of critical importance,” Bristow said. “We believe Kibali’s KZ structure hosts significant additional resources, and our continuing exploration is confirming this potential. A number of targets have been identified and the Kalimva-Ikamva and Kanga sud targets have been prioritised for in-depth investigation.”
Kibali is still a work in progress, with its third open pit now operational and the development of its underground mine ahead of schedule. Ore from its stopes is already being delivered to the plant but the underground mine is only expected to be in full production by 2018. The first of the mine’s three hydropower plants was commissioned last year and work on the second is well underway.
The metallurgical plant is operating at its design capacity and construction of the paste plant is nearing completion. Despite the high level of production and development activity -- some 5,000 people are employed on site -- Kibali is maintaining a good safety record, with the lost-time injury rate reduced by 16 percent last year.
Kibali represents an initial investment of more than $2 billion and at a gold price of $1 200/oz and its current mine plan is only expected to repay its funding after 2024. Thanks to its strong cash flow, however, it has already been able to repay the first tranche of its debt in March.
Bristow said Kibali was continuing to invest in the development of the regional economy by using local contractors and suppliers wherever possible. A prefeasibility study on a palm oil project, designed to provide a sustainable source of post-mining economic activity for the region, has been completed and work on a bankable feasibility study has started.
On the issue of the DRC’s proposed new mining code, Bristow said he welcomed Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo’s recent statement that the government was ready to re-engage with the mining industry with the intention to review the draft submitted to parliament and was open to further discussions with the sector.
“We were surprised and disappointed when the ministry of mines presented a draft code to parliament without taking the industry’s comments on board and which departed radically from the common ground we thought had been established. As the DRC chamber of mines warned at the time, enactment of the code in this investment-hostile form will have a catastrophic effect not only on the mining sector but on the Congolese economy generally. It was therefore very heartening to learn from the prime minister that the government has recommitted itself to negotiation,” he said.
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.