Thakadu will beneficiate the crude stream and produce high-purity battery-grade nickel sulphate at its US$14 million purification plant to be constructed at Lonmin’s base metals refinery (BMR).
High-purity nickel sulphate is a key component in the manufacture of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. According to Allied Market Research, the global market for nickel sulphate is expected to generate US$46 billion of revenue by 2022. The bulk of lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity is located in Japan, Korea and China, which together account for 85% of global production capacity.
Thakadu’s CEO, Ruli Diseko, said: “We are excited about the potential created by this deal. In addition to funding and building the plant, Thakadu will leverage Lonmin’s existing BMR infrastructure and is expected to produce approximately 25,000t/y of high-purity nickel sulphate. This will provide upstream raw material for the rapidly growing global lithium-ion battery market. The product’s end uses are in stationary energy storage, consumer electronics and electric vehicles.”
Ruli elaborates: “Back in 2015, Thakadu self-funded the metallurgical test work and proved the project’s technical feasibility at mineral research organisation Mintek in 2016. As part of that test work, Thakadu developed a proprietary flow sheet and produced a high-purity lithium-ion battery-grade sample. This was a first for South Africa. Next, we conducted a comprehensive market study and now Thakadu’s samples are undergoing pre-qualification tests by end-users in the priority markets of Japan, Korea and China.
“We have also raised funding for and commenced the bankable feasibility study for the purification plant, planned for completion in the second [June] quarter of 2017. Commercial production from the plant is planned for the first half of 2018. The plant will create 60 permanent jobs, in addition to the employment opportunities created during construction. It will be the first commercial scale operation in South Africa producing battery grade nickel sulphate, so we already have two SA firsts here.”