Lithium Exploration Pact Sealed Between Rwanda and Rio Tinto Minerals
Lithium Exploration Pact Sealed Between Rwanda and Rio Tinto Minerals

Lithium Exploration Pact Sealed Between Rwanda and Rio Tinto Minerals

  • 31-Jan-2024 2:23 PM
  • Journalist: Henry Locke

Rwanda took a significant step in advancing its mining sector as it entered into a pioneering agreement with Rio Tinto Minerals Development on Monday, January 29. Renowned as a global leader in mineral exploration, mining, and processing, Rio Tinto Minerals Development is set to collaborate with Rwanda on the exploration and mining of lithium in the Western Province.

This strategic partnership materialized following discussions between President Paul Kagame and Jakob Stausholm, the CEO of Rio Tinto, during their attendance at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2024. The signing of the exploration and mining agreement underscores the commitment of both parties to leverage opportunities in Rwanda's burgeoning mining sector.

Notably, this isn't the first venture into lithium exploration for Rio Tinto Minerals Development in Rwanda. In August 2023, the company, in conjunction with Aterian, a UK-based mining firm, and Kinunga Mining, entered into a joint venture agreement to explore lithium in the country. The decision was spurred by the escalating global demand for lithium, projected to reach 900,000 tonnes in 2023, marking a substantial 27% increase from the previous year.

Rio Tinto's involvement is poised to make a transformative impact on Rwanda's mining landscape, signifying the country's dedication to unlocking the full potential of its mining sector. Emphasizing a commitment to sustainability, the exploration and mining activities will adhere to the highest Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards. This aligns with Rwanda's broader agenda to modernize and enhance the efficiency of its mining sector.

Expressing enthusiasm about the collaboration, Rio Tinto Minerals Development highlighted the application of its global expertise to expedite the quest for primary lithium deposits in Rwanda's Western Province. Lithium, a crucial metal in the production of rechargeable batteries used in electric vehicles, laptops, and cell phones, also finds applications in glass and ceramics.

As part of the larger Rio Tinto conglomerate, a leading global mining and materials company operating in 35 countries, Rio Tinto Minerals Development brings a wealth of experience and technological know-how to the partnership. This collaboration reflects the convergence of local and international expertise, aiming to propel Rwanda's mining sector onto the global stage.

Rwanda's mining sector has been making significant strides, evident in the impressive export revenues it generated. From January to September 2023 alone, the sector contributed $851.6 million (approximately Rwf1 trillion) in export revenues. This marked a remarkable 45.6% increase compared to the corresponding period in 2022 when export revenues stood at $584.8 million. Encouraged by this positive momentum, the government has set an ambitious target of achieving $1.5 billion in annual mineral export revenues by 2024.

The collaboration between Rwanda and Rio Tinto Minerals Development signifies a pivotal moment for the nation's mining sector. With a focus on lithium exploration, this partnership not only aligns with the global demand for key minerals but also positions Rwanda as a key player in the sustainable and technologically driven future of mining. The anticipated positive impact on export revenues and the broader economy underscores the strategic significance of this venture in Rwanda's journey toward economic prosperity.

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