Mining giant Rio Tinto dips toes in Canadian lithium projects in rare pursuit of EV metal – by Naimul Karim (Financial Post – July 10, 2023)

Signs option agreement with two Canadian lithium companies

Rio Tinto Ltd., one of the world’s largest mining companies, doesn’t currently produce any lithium, but two agreements in as many months with Canadian companies suggest the giant is quietly exploring projects containing the metal that’s expected to play a key role in powering the energy transition away from fossil fuels.

Rio on July 10 signed an option agreement for about $115.7 million with Longueuil, Que.-based Azimut Exploration Inc., giving it the opportunity to own at least 75 per cent of the Corvet and Kaanaayaa lithium properties in Quebec’s Eeyou Istchee James Bay region.

An option agreement doesn’t necessarily mean Rio will own the properties, and the company must fulfil several conditions. For example, to acquire 50 per cent of Azimut’s properties, Rio must spend at least $14 million over four years to explore the projects. To secure an additional 20 per cent, Rio will need to spend an additional $100 million over five years for exploration.

The deal allows the mining giant, which earned US$16.1 billion from its operations last year, to spend a few million dollars to dip its toes into lithium projects owned by Azimut and assess the financial viability of building mines at the locations in the future.

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