China’s Zijin says will advance disputed, giant Congo lithium project

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China’s Zijin Mining said it will defend its right to advance the contested Manono Lithium mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after it was granted permission to develop the deposit.

The permit to develop one of world’s largest hard rock deposits of the mineral initially belonged to Australian AVZ Minerals, but was revoked in February by the DRC’s mines ministry that said the company had not developed it fast enough.

China’s top gold and copper miner, Zijin has been snapping up lithium assets in recent years in South America as well as Africa, to produce the metal used in electric vehicle batteries.

Manono Lithium SAS, a joint venture through which Zijin subsidiary Jinxiang Lithium owns a 61% stake and DRC’S state-owned Cominiere the remaining interest, was granted rights over the northeast tenement of the Manono mine, the company told the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

AVZ, which said it owns the Manono project through its unit Dathcom Mining SA, has pending legal challenges against Cominiere and another unit of Zijin.

Zijin is committed to developing the project with Cominiere, the DRC, local stakeholders and the DRC people, Chen Chen, legal counsel for Zijin Mining, told Reuters on Wednesday.

“We cannot speculate as to what legal issues will arise in the future, but will defend the new joint venture so that work on the northern tenement may continue for the benefit of the DRC and its local communities,” she said.

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