Sibanye-Stillwater to acquire French nickel refinery Eramet for US$77m as it advances its battery metals strategy

SOUTH AFRICA – Precious metals miner Sibanye-Stillwater has taken the next step in expanding its footprint in the battery metals sector by entering into an exclusive put option agreement with French mining group Eramet to acquire the Sandouville nickel hydrometallurgical processing facility, in France, for €65 million (US$77.4 million) according to Mining Weekly.

The companies expect the deal to conclude by the end of 2021, pending regulatory approvals.

Eramet can exercise the put option upon the completion of the consultation process with the relevant Eramet works councils, which is standard for this type of transaction.

The Sandouville facility is based in France’s second-largest industrial port, Europe at Le Havre, with access to extensive logistical infrastructure, including shipping, rail and motorways and this supports future supply into the European end-user markets.

The site, which employs about 190 people, specializes in the manufacture of high-value-added nickel salts and high-purity metals for specific applications in electroplating, catalysis, super-alloys and electronics materials.

The site is scalable for nickel, cobalt and lithium battery-grade products.

The facility has a production capacity of 12 000 t/y of high-purity nickel, 4 000 t/y of high-purity nickel salts and solutions, and about 600 t/y of cobalt chloride.

“The transaction would unlock a sustainable future for the site and new prospects to the benefit of the employees and would enable Eramet to focus on its core strategic projects”

Christel Bories – Chairperson and CEO, Eramet

The acquisition is the next step in Sibanye’s battery metals strategy and builds on its initial investment in the Keliber lithium hydroxide project, which was agreed in February 2021 with the Finnish Minerals Group and the Finnish government.

Following successful due diligence in the coming months, the Sandouville acquisition is considered to be a low-risk entry into the nickel beneficiation business and the initial focus for Sibanye will be on ramping up throughput as per existing Eramet plans.

As part of the due diligence, Sibanye has completed a scoping study to further upgrade the Sandouville facilities to target specific nickel battery metal products, with the aim being to unlock the full potential of these facilities and their location. 

Sibanye has advised that a detailed investment and development plan will follow suit.

Eramet commented that the agreement is an opportunity for the Sandouville site to be expanded and benefit the Normandy region while enabling the company to focus on its core strategic projects.

“The transaction would unlock a sustainable future for the site and new prospects to the benefit of the employees and the Normandy region, and would enable Eramet to focus on its core strategic projects,” said Eramet Chairperson and Chief Executive Christel Bories.

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