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You are here: Home News & Events Canadian firm, BITRI in P1.2bn deal for battery minerals

Canadian firm, BITRI in P1.2bn deal for battery minerals

The Botswana Institute for Technology, Research and Innovation (BITRI) is set to sign a partnership deal with a Canadian firm on a C$129 million (P1.2 billion) project, which will extract minerals for the development of batteries used in electric vehicles and other low-carbon innovations.

The deal involves BITRI and Process Research Ortech (PRO) partnering to bring in funders for an as-yet-unnamed copper and nickel mine where minerals will be extracted for the development of batteries, which are increasingly required in the green energy transition.

The partnership was unveiled recently at the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Rwanda, with Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau later releasing a statement hailing the collaboration.

“This project will rely on the concept of smart villages, developed in partnership with the University of Botswana, PRO, and BITRI, and will advance sustainable economic prosperity in rural areas in Botswana by integrating the smart villages approach to mining operations, complemented by other socio-economic activities,” he said.

Trudeau added: “This investment will advance Canada’s global leadership on critical minerals by ensuring leading Canadian companies like PRO work with innovative research institutions like BITRI to develop and secure supply chains for the critical minerals needed to enable a transition to a low-carbon economy and support advanced technology and manufacturing.”

BusinessWeek understands that the partnership will involve extracting nickel and copper salts from copper-nickel matte and producing high-quality battery-grade nickel sulphate. Nickel sulphate is the key material used to produce precursor materials for lithium-ion batteries.

Details of the copper and nickel mine being targeted and other terms of the partnership remain unclear, with PRO vice president, Jonathan Chen telling BusinessWeek in an email that further information could not be disclosed as “discussions were ongoing”.

“It is definitely an exciting development which we hope will gain further traction with the announcement made by Prime Minister Trudeau,” he said in response to enquiries. “Once more details are finalised [we] would be pleased to discuss with [you] further.”

Officials at BITRI told BusinessWeek a partnership signing ceremony would be held next week in Gaborone, where more details would be availed.

While the local copper and nickel mine has not been named, it is known that Canadian firm, Premium Nickel Resources is spearheading the revival of the BCL Mine, to restart production in the next few years.

Earlier this year, Premium Nickel’s local subsidiary finalised a P837 million deal to take over Selebi and Selebi North shafts which represent two of the four underground resources at BCL Mine, as well as Selkirk Mine, which is one of the two resources at Tati Nickel. The total sale also includes related infrastructure such as rail, power, and water works.

The Canadian investor said P5 billion would be spent on sprucing up infrastructure at the mines in preparation for reopening.

Both copper and nickel are key minerals in the electric vehicle and associated battery industry with a leading consultancy, Wood Mackenzie, estimating that while stainless steel will continue to be the main first use for nickel, the major engine of demand growth over the next two decades will be batteries.

“From only seven percent of the total market in 2021, we expect battery use to grow to 40% of nickel consumption by 2040,” the firm said in an April research update. “That will push nickel demand to double in size to six million tonnes per year. “Our estimate for nickel use in batteries has increased by 900,000 tonnes in the past six months, mainly due to greater net-zero commitments from governments and automakers. “The increasing importance of energy storage to enable wider use of renewables will also be an important factor in driving demand.”

According to Wood Mackenzie, 40% of future demand growth in copper will come from electrical applications in green technologies including electrical vehicles, offshore wind, and solar.

Published By: Mmegi On-line

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