Rwanda, Rio Tinto Minerals Sign Lithium Exploration Deal

Rwanda and Rio Tinto Minerals Development, a global leader in…

Rwanda and Rio Tinto Minerals Development, a global leader in the exploration, mining, and processing of minerals, on Monday, January 29, signed an agreement of exploration and mining of lithium in Western Province.

The development comes after President Paul Kagame and Jakob Stausholm, CEO of the mining giant Rio Tinto discussed partnerships and investment opportunities in Rwanda’s mining sector, while attending World Economic Forum in Davos, in January 2024.

In August 2023, Aterian, a UK-based mining company signed a joint venture agreement with Rio Tinto and Kinunga Mining to explore Lithium in Rwanda. That year, lithium demand was forecasted to reach 900,000 tonnes, a 27 per cent increase from 2022, according to Benchmark Minerals, which assesses market prices and provides supply chain intelligence for lithium-ion batteries.

Demand for lithium is forecast to be 1.5 million tonnes in 2026.

Commenting on the new agreement, Yamina Karitanyi, the CEO of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, said the entry of Rio Tinto marks Rwanda’s resolve to further unlock the potential of the country’s mining sector.

She said: “This development is part of our continued efforts to boost and modernize Rwanda’s mining sector with application of the highest ESG standards.”

Lawrence Dechambenoit, Global Head of External Affairs, Rio Tinto, noted that “the company is excited to be partnering with the government of Rwanda, applying our global experience to accelerate the search for primary lithium deposits in Rwanda’s Western Province.”

Lithium is a key metal in the production of rechargeable batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs), laptops, and cell phones and is used in glass and ceramics.

Rio Tinto Minerals Development is part of Rio Tinto, a leading global mining and materials company, which operates in 35 countries.

Rwanda’s mining sector generated $851.6 million (approx. Rwf1 trillion) in export revenues from January to September 2023, representing an increase of 45.6 per cent compared to $584.8 million recorded during the same period in 2022.

The government targets $1.5 billion in annual mineral export revenues by 2024.

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