Rio Tinto has joined forces with European battery maker InoBat to explore innovative lithium battery initiatives in Serbia.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) will see the firms jointly working to expedite the establishment of a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ battery manufacturing and recycling value chain in the country.

The collaboration will span the full commodity lifecycle from mining through to recycling of lithium.

Rio Tinto Marnie Finlayson borates and lithium businesses managing director said: “This collaboration with InoBat will enable an important exchange of knowledge and information on lithium processing, recycling and technologies for the next generation of batteries.

“It is a visionary initiative and one that is aligned with Rio Tinto’s commitment to partnerships that provide solutions to combat climate change.”

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Rio Tinto is developing its Jadar lithium project in Serbia. It has the potential to produce nearly 55,000t of battery-grade lithium carbonate to serve the European electric vehicles market.

Production from the Jadar project could potentially be sent for processing at a battery research and development facility and pilot plant being developed by InoBat in Slovakia.

InoBat plans to increase future production by building ‘gigafactories’ in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

The company intends to produce and recycle electric vehicle batteries for the European market.

Rio Tinto expects the collaboration to support the development of a complete lithium and electric vehicle battery value chain.

InoBat Auto CEO Marian Bocek said: “The signing of the memorandum of understanding with Rio Tinto represents an important step in achieving InoBat’s goal to utilise a European-based value chain and support European bid for technological independence.

“Our unique ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach covers the whole lifecycle of batteries from mining to recycling, in order to underpin circular economy efforts and the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”