Anglo-Australian mining firm Rio Tinto is planning to invest in European-based battery technology and manufacturing company Inobat Auto.

The investment will help Inobat complete the construction of a research and development (R&D) centre and pilot battery line in Voderady, Slovakia.

The investment follows a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the firms in May 2021.

The MoU outlined an intention to jointly work for establishing a cradle-to-cradle electric vehicle battery value chain in Serbia.

InoBat Auto CEO Marian Bocek said: “Our mission has always been to provide solutions across the entire value chain – a cradle-to-cradle approach, which showcases the concept of the circular economy and will support Europe’s bid for technological independence.

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“Side-by-side with Rio Tinto, we are looking forward to further developing our manufacturing capacities and working closely on the downstream development of a battery ecosystem with common decarbonisation efforts at its core.”

Rio said that InoBat’s new battery research and development facility and pilot plant could receive battery-grade lithium carbonate from its Jadar lithium project in Serbia.

The $2.4bn Jadar project has the potential to produce nearly 58,000t of battery-grade lithium carbonate to serve the European electric vehicles market.

InoBat plans to boost the production of electric vehicle batteries by building ‘gigafactories’ in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

Rio Tinto battery materials business managing director Marnie Finlayson said: “Our Jadar lithium project in Serbia is on the doorstep of the European electric vehicle market.

“Capable of producing enough lithium to make around one million electric vehicle batteries a year to the highest environmental standards, we believe Jadar will be a critical supplier of the European battery ecosystem and, through our investment in InoBat, we hope that we can assist in making some of those batteries locally.”