The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ministry of Mines has signed the ministerial decree to award the mining licence for the AVZ Minerals’ Manono lithium and tin project.

The decree was issued to Dathcom Mining, which holds 100% of the Manono project licence.

AVZ, via its wholly-owned subsidiary AVZ International (AVZI), owns a 75% stake in Dathcom Mining while La Congolaise D’Exploitation Miniere (Cominiere) holds the remaining stake.

Cominiere will hand over 10% of its interest in the project to the DRC Government following the award of the mining licence and in accordance with the joint venture agreement.

The mining licence for the project is planned to be issued following the payment of surface rights fees.

AVZ said that the ministerial decree, however, does not include a portion of the landholding to the north that requires exploration permit renewal.

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AVZ managing director Nigel Ferguson said: “This paves the way for AVZ to start developing what is arguably one of the most important new mining projects in the world that will significantly contribute to the global green energy transition while also uplifting the lives of the Congolese people who will contribute and receive sustained benefits from the project for many decades to come.”

Ferguson said that the company is moving ahead with early works programmes at the Manono project prior to making a final investment decision. The first spodumene concentrate production is planned to start in late 2023.

Estimated to cost $545.5m for development, the project is expected to produce 700,000tpa of high-grade lithium and 45,375tpa of primary lithium sulphate, based on a definitive feasibility study.

Furthermore, AVZI is in advanced talks with the DRC Government to acquire Cominiere’s 15% interest in Dathcom.

The stake will be purchased by AVZI by exercising its rights under the Dathcom shareholder agreement.