Rio’s Technical Development Centre on the search for jadarite process cure

Rio Tinto is developing a new chemical procedure to process jadarite, a mineral discovered in 2004 with concentrations of lithium and boron, as it looks to unlock the potential at its Jadar asset in Serbia.

The company’s Technical Development Centre in Bundoora, Victoria (Australia), in collaboration with the company’s team of global experts, is using ground-breaking methods to reduce jadarite to its component parts, according to a release from the International Mining and Resources Conference.

This will see lithium carbonate and boric acid produced from the mined ore.

Lithium is increasingly being used to produce batteries for electric vehicles and mobile phones, while borates are essential components for heat-resistant glass, fibreglass and smartphone screens.

Rio Tinto’s Group Executive – Growth and Innovation, Stephen McIntosh said Rio’s Bundoora site had an essential role in its global business.

“Our Bundoora Technical Development Centre was established more than 25 years ago. It has a proud history of applying innovative thinking to help us to maximise value in our business,” he said.

“The centre is actively involved in applying technical expertise to improve how we find, study, build, optimise and close our operations.”

Rio Tinto has built a pilot processing plant within a large shipping container to be relocated to the Serbia mine site should the project proceed to production. The company is currently working on a prefeasibility study on Jadar, the only project where there is a known occurrence of jadarite.

Rio has invested more than $100 million on the project to date. Significant investment is required to continue technical analysis and planning to move from prefeasibility to feasibility, then to construction and operation, the latter of which could occur in 2023-2024.

The resource base at Jadar is currently are 21 Mt of B2O3-equivalent and 2.5 Mt of Li2O-equivalent.

The IMARC conference and exhibition, taking place this week in Melbourne, Victoria, is developed in collaboration with its founding partners the Victorian State Government of Australia, Austmine, AusIMM and Mines and Money.