India’s NMDC eyes WA lithium partnerships with Hancock Prospecting and others
India’s largest iron ore miner is believed to be nearing an agreement with Gina Rinehart in WA lithium as the country seeks to rapidly scale up in battery minerals to support its ambitious electric vehicle plans.
Executives from the Indian Government-owned NMDC (formerly the National Mineral Development Corporation) flew out of Western Australia on Friday after a visit that included meetings with the State Government and lithium processors, as well as a tour of Mrs. Rinehart’s Roy Hill iron ore mine.
NMDC has had a presence in Western Australia for over a decade, purchasing a majority stake in WA junior Legacy Iron Ore in 2011 and acquiring a stake in the undeveloped Mt Bevan magnetite project in Central Yilgarn.
Legacy and partner Hawthorn Resources struck a deal last year for Mrs. Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting to take a 51% stake in Mt Bevan in the rich Mt Ida minerals belt, 250km north of Kalgoorlie and 100km west of Leonora, by funding the project through to pre-feasibility.
However, NMDC has recently shifted its focus to lithium and other critical minerals, with the goal of advancing India’s mining and processing of battery metals in order to meet EV adoption in the world’s third-largest car market.
The Indian government hopes that EVs will account for 30% of India’s car sales by 2030, up from 1% today.
India only recently discovered its first lithium reserves and has been looking into ways to supplement supplies by investing in overseas deposits.
Significantly, Mt Bevan has lithium potential, with regional exploration success prompting the partners to step up their search for the mineral while also moving forward with plans for the magnetite deposit, which has a resource of about 1.2 billion tonnes.
The Hancock-led joint venture is expected to finalize a lithium deal with NMDC by the end of next month.
The Indian group’s interest, however, is not limited to Hancock; it is also said to be scouting equity and potential offtake deals in Australia.
Delta Lithium, led by David Flanagan, is thought to be one of the companies on its radar. Its flagship Mt Ida lithium project, which borders Mt Bevan’s Fast-running Delta and whose shares jumped 23% to 70 on Friday, declined to comment.
Mt Flanagan, on the other hand, has previously dealt with NMDC as the CEO of Atlas Iron, which discussed a potential sale of the Ridley magnetite deposit in the Pilbara to the Indian company in 2011.
Atlas was later taken over by Hancock after the deal fell through.
Atlas is now managing the Mt Bevan joint venture on behalf of Hancock, which invested $9 million to acquire a 31% stake in the venture.
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