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Market Cap £103.74bn
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Rio Tinto starts producing lithium from waste rock at California mine

Wed 7th April, 2021 1:00pm
April 7 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto Plc  RIO.L  RIO.AX  said on
Wednesday it has begun producing lithium, the ultralight metal
used to make electric vehicle batteries, from waste rock at a
borates mine it controls in California.
    A demonstration plant has begun operations with annual
production capacity of 10 tonnes of the white metal, the
Anglo-Australian company said in a press release. 
    That demonstration plant will run for the rest of the year
as Rio decides whether to spend $50 million to build a
full-scale production plant with annual capacity of 5,000
    Rio has produced borates - a group of minerals used to make
soaps, cosmetics and other consumer goods - for nearly a century
in the Mojave Desert, about 120 miles (195 km) north of Los
    That has left behind more than 90 years' worth of waste
rock, known in the industry as tailings. Rio said in late 2019
that it had begun probing the tailings for gold and discovered
lithium at a concentration higher than rival U.S. projects under
development, although the company declined to give the exact
    While the move would mark Rio's first jump into commercial
scale production of lithium, several rivals are planning
projects that vastly exceed Rio's plans for California.
    Lithium Americas Corp  LAC.TO , for instance, received final
federal approval in January for a Nevada lithium mine that will
produce 20,000 tonnes annually once operational in 2023.    
    Rio also controls Utah's Kennecott copper mine and a lithium
deposit in Serbia that has yet to be developed.

 (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Aurora Ellis)
 ((; Twitter: @ErnestScheyder;
+1-713-210-8512; Reuters Messaging:
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