Sibanye-Stillwater aiming to take controlling stake in Finnish lithium miner

Multinational precious metals miner Sibanye-Stillwater revealed yesterday it is in talks with Finnish lithium firm Keliber with regards to increasing its stake to 80%, which would give it a controlling stake.

The JSE and NYSE-listed firm currently has a 30.29% stake, held through Keliber Oy, which owns the namesake project in Finland’s Kaustinen region. Keliber aims to be Europe’s first fully integrated lithium producer.

In an attempt to reach the 80% threshold, Sibanye will make a voluntary cash offer to Keliber minority shareholders. A maximum sum of US$446 million has been touted for Sibanye to secure the increased shareholding, although it is subject to approval from the South African Reserve Bank and 50% of Keliber shareholders.

The move is part of Sibanye’s strategy of diversifying away from South African platinum and gold production into battery metals. The miner hopes that increasing its exposure to critical minerals will persuade investors to rerate the company, which is being held back by issues in its home country, according to CEO Neal Froneman.

“This is a further significant step in our strategy to build a unique global portfolio of green metals in a value accretive manner,” Froneman said in a statement.

Sibanye bought lithium and nickel assets in the US and Europe last year, but with prices for those metals ballooning over the past 12 months, the company has slowed its acquisition spree.

The proposed Keliber lithium mine consists of several advanced stage lithium spodumene deposits, with production expected to start in 2024 at an annual output of 15,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide.