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Sibanye-Stillwater has agreed to acquire a 50% stake in Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Nevada, US, for $490m.

A 50:50 joint venture will be formed between Australia-based Ioneer and the South African miner to develop the Rhyolite Ridge mine.

Ioneer will serve as the operator of the project while Sibanye will leverage its experience to develop the project, which is estimated to cost $850m.

Ioneer executive chairman James Calaway said: “Sibanye-Stillwater, with its proven track record of developing and operating major mining projects, including operations in the United States, its commitment to developing and maintaining an inclusive and sustainable culture, and its determination to become a major force in the battery materials supply chain, is an excellent partner for Ioneer to jointly realise the promise of Rhyolite Ridge.”

According to the agreement, Sibanye will purchase $70m worth of shares in Ioneer.

Sibanye-Stillwater will also have an option to participate in 50% of the North Basin, a highly prospective exploration asset situated next to the current project.

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By GlobalData

In the event Ioneer expands operations to a nearby lithium deposit, Sibanye will have the option to secure a half-stake in that project by making a $50m payment.

The two parties will now work to secure debt financing to fund the development of the project, which is slated to open in the second half of 2024.

Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman said: “This is Sibanye-Stillwater’s second lithium transaction and third transaction in the battery metals sector, which will be essential for the transition to a cleaner future.

“Rhyolite Ridge is a world-class lithium project and we recognise its strategic value, with the potential to become the largest lithium mine in the US.”

To assist with the development and operations of the Rhyolite Ridge project, the two firms will launch joint technical, marketing and ESG steering committees.

The deal represents Sibanye’s second lithium investment this year. In February, the firm purchased a third of Finnish lithium company Keliber.