Rio Tinto has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Serbian Government regarding the development of Jadar lithium-borate project following rising global lithium demand.
Under the MoU, the company will form joint working groups in collaboration with the government to develop the project through the study and permitting phases.
Discovered by Rio Tinto in 2004, Jadar is located near Loznica in western Serbia, around 160km from Belgrade.
During a visit to the project site earlier this month, Rio Tinto Energy and Minerals chief executive Bold Baatar said: “Rio Tinto sees Serbia as an attractive investment destination and the Jadar project is an important part of Rio Tinto’s growth portfolio.”
Currently in the prefeasibility phase, the project contains Jadarite and declared resources of 136 million tonnes.
A final investment decision is expected in the near-future, while construction is scheduled to start in 2020.
Subject to the positive outcome from feasibility studies and obtaining all mandatory approvals, the first production from the project is expected to begin in 2023.
Rio Tinto salt, uranium and borates division managing director Simon Trott said: "We are pleased to have progressed the signing of the MoU today in Belgrade.
"It lays the foundation to progress the project through future stages and brings Serbia and Rio Tinto closer to becoming a leading source of global lithium and borate production."
The project is wholly owned by Rio Tinto and has seen an investment of around $90m towards development cost.
Lithium and borates are used in the production of batteries for electrical vehicles, glass and ceramics, fertilisers, and other products.
Image: Rio Tinto signs deal for uranium mining in Jadar project, Serbia. Photo: courtesy of Rio Tinto.