(Bloomberg) — Rio Tinto Group plans to spend $2.4 billion building a lithium mine in Serbia, in the latest sign that the biggest miners are pushing into metals poised to benefit from the green-energy transition.
The biggest producers are churning out record profits after commodities rallied this year, raising the question of what the industry will do with all the extra cash.
Most have been focused on returning money to shareholders through dividends and buybacks — analysts are expecting more big payouts in the coming weeks, including from Rio itself when the world’s second-biggest miner reports financial results on Wednesday.
But there are also signs that the industry is increasingly keen to invest more in growing production of key “future facing” commodities like battery metals or fertilizer. Rio’s announcement marks the first big move by a mining major into lithium, which is used in rechargeable batteries.
Earlier Tuesday, larger rival BHP Group announced plans to buy the owner of a Canadian nickel project — another vital component of the types of batteries that power electric cars or back up renewable energy.