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Rio Tinto remains cautiously optimistic about the future of lithium, driven by increasing demand for batteries in electric vehicles, but CEO Jakob Stausholm has indicated that the company will not pursue major acquisitions in the sector. Instead, Rio Tinto plans to focus on improving lithium extraction technology, as reported by Reuters.

While acknowledging the growth potential of lithium, Stausholm emphasized the volatile nature of the metal’s price. Despite this, Rio Tinto, known primarily as the world’s largest iron ore producer, is among the few major mining companies investing in lithium. In contrast, competitors like BHP have refrained from significant investments in the electric vehicle battery sector.

The recent decline in demand for electric vehicles has led to a significant drop in lithium prices, with Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reporting an over 80% decrease in lithium prices over the past year. This downturn has forced many producers to halt production and cut jobs.

Speaking at the annual Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in Toronto, Stausholm reiterated Rio Tinto’s stance on the volatile nature of battery material prices.

Rio Tinto’s current lithium projects include the Rincon project in Argentina, where the company plans to construct a lithium carbonate plant with an annual capacity of 3000 tons for battery production, expected to commence by the end of 2024. Additionally, Rio Tinto owns the Jadar lithium project in Serbia, although the project has faced challenges after Serbia revoked its license in 2022 due to environmental concerns.

Stausholm also expressed optimism about decreasing inflation in Western countries, foreseeing potential cost stabilization for the company in the upcoming year.