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Sibanye-Stillwater begins construction of lithium hydroxide refinery in Finland

Christian Fernsby |
Sibanye-Stillwater announces that, subsequent to securing an effective controlling interest of approximately 85% in Keliber Oy, the Board of Sibanye-Stillwater has approved capital expenditure of €588m for the Keliber lithium hydroxide project, beginning with the construction of the Kokkola lithium hydroxide refinery.

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The Kokkola refinery will be located at the Kokkola industrial park in Finland, a world-class industrial and logistics hub, strategically positioned to supply the growing European battery sector.

The construction of the Kokkola refinery marks the first phase in the development of Keliber’s wholly owned, advanced, Keliber project, located in the Central Ostrobothnia region of Finland, one of the most significant lithium-bearing areas in Europe.

Four initial open cast and three underground, highly mechanised mining operations, (primarily Syväjärvi and Rapasaari, with Emmes, Outovesi, and Länttä towards the end of the project life), situated across three municipalities (Kaustinen, Kokkola and Kronoby), are planned to supply ore to the Päiväneva concentrator which will be situated close to the Rapasaari mine.

Concentrate produced at the Päiväneva concentrator is planned to be trucked approximately 66 kilometers to the Kokkola refinery. The Kokkola refinery is forecast to produce an average of 15,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate per year (as per the DFS below).

A definitive feasibility study (DFS) completed by Keliber in February 2022 and updated in October 2022 confirmed the robust economics of the Keliber project at hydroxide prices significantly lower than the average prevailing spot prices over the last 12 months.

Open pit and underground ore reserves of 12.7 million tonnes (0.92% Li2O) and mineral resources of 17 million tonnes (1.02% Li2O), support an estimated life-of-mine of 16 years at a forecast average milling rate of approximately 800,000 tonnes per annum.

The DFS assumed average life-of-mine operating costs of €6,751/tonne of lithium hydroxide and project capital (adjusted for inflation to October 2022) of approximately €588 million.

The DFS forecast a 20% post tax internal rate of return (IRR) and a post-tax net present value (NPV) of €887 million (real 2022 terms) for the Keliber project, assuming an 8% discount rate, an average lithium hydroxide price of US$26,034/tonne and an average exchange rate of €/US$ 1.10.

Assuming SFA Oxford’s long term forecast lithium hydroxide price of US$37,000/tonne, 42% higher than assumed for the DFS, the NPV of the Keliber project increases by 94% to €1.72 billion (real 2022 terms) at a 27% post tax IRR.


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