ioneer Ltd (“ioneer” or the “Company”) (ASX: INR) is pleased to announce that the Company has reached an agreement to establish a joint venture (the “Joint Venture”) with Sibanye Stillwater Limited (“Sibanye-Stillwater”) to develop the flagship Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project located in Nevada, USA (the “Project”). Under the terms of the agreement, Sibanye-Stillwater will contribute US$490 million for a 50% interest in the Joint Venture, with ioneer to maintain a 50% interest and retain operatorship. ioneer has also agreed to provide Sibanye-Stillwater with an option to participate in 50% of the North Basin1, upon the election of Sibanye-Stillwater to contribute up to an additional US$50 million, subject to certain terms and conditions.
In addition, the Company has entered into a subscription agreement with Sibanye- Stillwater for a strategic placement of US$70 million of ioneer ordinary shares (the “Sibanye-Stillwater Placement”). The placement shares will be issued to Sibanye- Stillwater at ioneer’s 10 day VWAP as of ASX market close on 15 September 2021. The Sibanye-Stillwater Placement is subject to shareholder approval at an Extraordinary General Meeting (“EGM”) of the Company’s shareholders to be held on 21 October 2021.
Transformational strategic investment underpins the quality of Rhyolite Ridge and ioneer’s future as a major lithium and boron producer in the US
Sibanye-Stillwater is a US$10 billion global mining company2, with a proven track record in large-scale mining projects, and has committed to become an important player in the battery materials supply chain
Formation of a joint venture operating committee comprised of ioneer and Sibanye- Stillwater representatives will leverage the deep skillsets of both partners to help deliver the Project
Sibanye-Stillwater and ioneer will work collaboratively to secure debt financing for the Project on acceptable terms to ensure the Project is appropriately fully financed to production
Proceeds from the Sibanye-Stillwater Placement will be used towards ioneer’s development capital requirement, medium term working capital needs and to progress long-lead items to minimise time to production
James Calaway, Executive Chairman of ioneer commented:
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Sibanye-Stillwater, a leading international mining company, as a strategic partner in the Rhyolite Ridge Project. Sibanye- Stillwater, with its proven track record of developing and operating major mining projects including operations in the United States, its commitment to developing and maintaining an inclusive and sustainable culture, and its determination to become a major force in the battery materials supply chain, is an excellent partner for ioneer to jointly realize the promise of Rhyolite Ridge. With a strong strategic partner in place, we can now look to finalise the debt financing for the Project and move towards construction. We are confident in the alignment of our companies. Our partnership with Sibanye-Stillwater will allow ioneer to unlock the tremendous, long- term value of Rhyolite Ridge.”
Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater commented:
“This is Sibanye-Stillwater’s second lithium transaction and third transaction in the battery metals sector, which will be essential for the transition to a cleaner future. We are excited to build a long-term relationship with ioneer, who share our vision of facilitating security of lithium supply to the North American markets. Rhyolite Ridge is a world-class lithium project and we recognize its strategic value, with the potential to become the largest lithium mine in the US. We look forward to working collaboratively with the ioneer team and leveraging our complementary skills and capabilities to ensure this strategically important, world-class project is delivered, and materially contributes to reducing climate change.”
Sibanye-Stillwater is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange (JSE:SSW and NYSE:SBSW) and has a market capitalisation of US$10 billion. Sibanye-Stillwater is one of the world’s largest primary producers of platinum, palladium and rhodium and is also a top tier gold producer, ranking third globally on a gold- equivalent basis. It also produces other PGMs, such as iridium and ruthenium, and chrome, copper and nickel as by-products.
In the United States, Sibanye-Stillwater currently operates three integrated facilities in Montana: the Stillwater and East Boulder PGM mines (78% palladium and 22% platinum) and the Columbus Metallurgical Complex which smelts material mined to produce PGM- rich filter cake and recycles autocatalysts to recover PGMs.
Sibanye-Stillwater has continued to advance its global diversification strategy to encompass the battery metal space by investing in a Finnish lithium hydroxide project in February 2021. With the acquisition of a 30% shareholding in Keliber Oy, Sibanye- Stillwater now has a substantial interest in the Keliber Lithium Project currently in development phase in the Kaustinen region of Finland. In July 2021, Sibanye-Stillwater also announced it had entered into an exclusive put option agreement with French mining group Eramet SA for the acquisition of 100% of the Sandouville nickel hydrometallurgical processing facility in Normandy, France. Together with the ioneer Placement, the Rhyolite Ridge Joint Venture represents Sibanye-Stillwater’s third transaction in the battery materials sector following the Sandouville nickel and Keliber lithium transactions in 2021.
The Sibanye-Stillwater Group focusses on embedding and excelling at environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters. Their vision is to create superior value for all stakeholders through the mining of mineral resources. The sustainable management of their operations is integral to their ability to obtain and maintain their social license to operate and generate long-term value for all stakeholders, including employees, the communities where they operate, governments and shareholders.
ioneer Ltd is the 100% owner of the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project located in Nevada, USA, the only known lithium-boron deposit in North America and one of only two known such deposits in the world. The Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) completed in April 2020 confirmed Rhyolite Ridge as a world-class Lithium and Boron Project that is expected to become a globally significant, long-life, low-cost source of lithium and boron vital to a sustainable future.