Aterian PLC, a British firm specializing in strategic metal exploration and development, has expressed its excitement over the prospect of finding lithium in Rwanda, after various signs have indicated its presence.
The increasing popularity of smart energy, which requires a greater reliance on electric batteries for which lithium is a crucial raw material, has made lithium increasingly competitive on the international mineral market.
Dubbed as “white gold” for electric vehicles (EVs), lithium plays a critical role in the cathodes of all types of lithium-ion batteries that power EVs, although it is also used in the batteries of laptops and cell phones, as well as in the glass and ceramics industry.
In 2018, the Rwandan government called on investors to invest in exploration and processing of lithium in a bid to brand the country as a destination for mining investment.
Luke Rogers, the Chief Operating Officer at Aterian PLC, who is a mining and minerals engineer, said his company has seen a lot of signs of the potential presence of lithium in the country and is confident that Rwanda will be a producer of lithium concentrate in the next ten years. Areas with lithium potential in Rwanda include Rwamagana, Huye, and Muhanga, according to Rogers.
“As Aterian PLC, we have deposits at the moment that have potential for lithium. We got a report recently that confirms that the mineralization we are seeing on the surface gives a high chance that there will be lithium at the depth. It is all to do with geochemistry. If you are seeing certain elements in abundance in one location, it gives an indication that there could be lithium,” he said.
Currently, there are companies in Rwanda that produce amblygonite, a mineral that contains lithium. However, amblygonite is not highly regarded on the international market, and its production is relatively small.
The more exciting story, according to Rogers, is the potential of finding better lithium-containing minerals like Spodumene and Lepidolite, which can be mined in abundance and are easier to process.
As the world produces more batteries and EVs, the demand for lithium is projected to reach 1.5 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) by 2025 and over 3 million tonnes by 2030.
For context, the world produced 540,000 tonnes of LCE in 2021. Based on the demand projections, production needs to triple by 2025 and increase nearly six-fold by 2030.