Rio Tinto building training center for Australia's Yolungu people
The new establishment is bein...
Rio Tinto recently began construction to a mining training center in Australia’s Northern Territory region of Arnhem Land.
The new establishment is being created to provide training for the indigenous inhabitants of the area, known as the Yolngu. It is a large step toward establishing a bauxite mining operation that will be overseen by the Gumatj Corporation at Dhupuma Plateau.
The $2.4 million project is at a site near the new Garma Cultural Knowledge Center in the area of Gulkula. The first training sessions are expected to begin in March 2016.
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“Our aim is to create a sustainable, Indigenous-owned business that will deliver long-term economic benefits for the Yolngu people,” said Gumatj deputy chairman Djawa Yunupingu. “This training centre will help Yolngu develop the skills to work in mines across the Northern Territory, through on-the-job training within Gumatj mining operations.
“It will be available to Aboriginal people throughout the Northern Territory who wish to learn skills in the mining industry. With the support of Rio Tinto, we are making considerable progress toward this mining operation.”
The center is expected to have the capacity to train up to 24 people at a time, and will include sessions in mine rehabilitations, administration and catering. In addition, it will also offer literacy and numeracy sessions.
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Rio Tinto president and CEO Bauxite and Alumina Phillip Strachan said, “We’re proud to support this important initiative, which is being driven by the local Yolngu community.
“Learning about the business of mining can help further empower Indigenous people in their dealings with mining companies into the future.”
Dr. Howard Smith, an industrial scientist and former manager of mining projects at the Northern Land Council, believes the bond the area’s indigenous inhabitants have with the land makes them the ideal type of people to become mine workers.
“They know where to go, where not to go, which plants need to be here, which animals need to be there, and they can construct the mine according to their needs,” he said.
Lithium producers bullish as EV revolution ramps demand
Rising demand for lithium is stoking prices for the electric vehicle battery metal, fueling long-delayed expansions that still may not produce adequate supplies that automakers need to meet aggressive production plans.
Growing industry optimism from higher lithium prices is a change from last year when funding for mines and processing plants dried up during the pandemic.
Albemarle Corp, Livent Corp and other producers are scrambling to make more lithium, but some analysts worry the recent price jump will not spur a big enough expansion to meet a planned wave of new EV models by mid-decade.
Since January, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation Co, along with other automakers and battery parts manufacturers, have said they will spend billions of dollars on EV plants.
U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed spending $174bn to boost EV sales and infrastructure. The European Union has similar plans, part of a rush to catch up with global EV leader China.
Those moves have helped an index of lithium prices jump 59 percent since April 2020, according to data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a commodity pricing provider.
The rising demand “reflects what feels like a real and fundamental turning point in our industry,” said Paul Graves, chief executive of Livent Corp, which supplies Tesla Inc. On Monday, it said it would more than double its annual lithium production to 115,000 tonnes.
Graves warned, though, that “it will be a challenge for the lithium industry to produce sufficient qualified material in the near and medium term.”
Albemarle, the world’s largest lithium producer, aims to double its production capacity to 175,000 tonnes by the end of the year when two construction projects are complete. Albemarle's Q1 profit beat expectations thanks to rising lithium prices. Chile’s SQM, the No. 2 producer, said its goal to expand production of lithium carbonate by 71 percent to 120,000 tonnes should be complete by December.
Australia’s Orocobre is paying $1.4 billion for smaller rival Galaxy Resources, a strategy designed to boost scale and help it grow faster in regions closer to customers.
“The next few years are going to be critical in terms of whether there’s enough available lithium supply, and that’s why you’re starting to see commodity prices start to ramp,” said Chris Berry, an independent lithium industry consultant.
The price gains helped Albemarle and other major producers, including China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co and SQM, post big gains in first-quarter profit and boost forecasts for the year.
Even China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp, saddled with debt due to years of low lithium prices, signaled that recovering demand should help it swing to a profit this year.
Forecasts call for demand for the white metals to surge from about 320,000 tonnes annually last year to more than 1 million tonnes annually by 2025, when many automakers plan to launch new EV fleets, according to Benchmark.
Still, demand is expected to outstrip supply in 2025 by more than 200,000 tonnes, so lithium prices may need to rise to encourage producers to build more mines. That could boost the prices consumers pay for EVs. “Companies across the lithium-ion supply chain are in the best position they’ve been in for the last 5 years,” said Pedro Palandrani of the Global X Lithium & Battery Technology ETF , which has doubled in value in the past year.