Thakadu Battery Materials has commenced production at its U$20 million nickel sulphate refinery in South Africa, putting Africa on the map as a supplier of battery-grade product to the growing global markets for electric mobility and stationary energy storage.
Pioneering the responsible supply of battery raw materials from South Africa, Thakadu’s 30,000 tpa refinery is the first of a series of projects that will fast-track the company’s aim to become a multi-asset producer of battery raw materials.
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“This is a huge milestone for our team, and we are pleased to bring this nickel sulphate refinery to production at a time when high nickel cathode chemistries are set to dominate battery and electric vehicle production,” says Thakadu COO, Danie Smit.
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The new nickel sulphate refinery uses proprietary process technology to purify crude nickel sulphate extracted from a platinum group metal concentrate that would otherwise be sold as a lower value product.
Targeting production of 16,000 tpa in 2021 with ramp up to steady state production of 25,000 tpa, Thakadu will refine crude nickel sulphate feed from its long-term supply agreement with Sibanye-Stillwater and other supplemental feed sources.
“We see enormous value in having a battery materials platform with a producing asset and we are pursuing synergistic M&A opportunities to leverage that into a clean and reliable source of battery materials for the global market,” says Thakadu CEO, Ruli Diseko.
Nickel demand from the automotive sector is growing rapidly with electric mobility expected to represent the single-largest growth sector for nickel demand over the next 20 years.
According to Roskill, nickel sulphate consumption has grown at 20% a year since 2014 and that has primarily been driven by the rapidly growing EV battery sector.
The commodity research firm expects to see demand grow from around 90,000-100,000 tonnes contained nickel in 2020 to 2.6 Mt by 2040.
“We are excited about leading Africa’s contribution to a cleaner planet,” said Diseko.
“We believe that investing in value addition of battery raw materials at source is not only developmental but creates logistics and supply efficiencies that are a net positive for a greener future.”