‘The contention is Hydromet is a far cleaner and cheaper way of processing metal ores such as nickel which Lifezone holds in abundance via its Tanzanian subsidiary, Kabanga Nickel’
KEITH Liddell described the listing of Lifezone Metals in New York in June last year as a major milestone in more than 30 years of promoting his bespoke Hydromet smelting technology. His contention is the technology is a cleaner and cheaper way of processing metal ores such as nickel which – not so incidentally – Lifezone holds in abundance via its Tanzanian subsidiary Kabanga Nickel. If Liddell’s masterplan materialises, Hydromet facilities will process first ore from Kabanga in 2026.
Liddell’s vision has been supported so far: Lifezone holds $86m in cash following the reverse takeover by listed blank cheque company GoGreen Investments while in February 2023 BHP paid the second tranche of a total $100m investment in Kabanga Nickel. What’s needed now is for Kabanga to conclude commercial offtake agreements which will support the pre-production capital financing, a process that began in April last year. It would help, though, if the nickel market played ball. The metal’s price shed 45% in 2023, and the outlook is not great for 2024. According to an International Nickel Study Group forecast in August, the nickel market is heading for a 239,000-ton supply surplus taking the three-year cumulative surplus to 566,000t. You don’t pioneer new technology for 30 years by being swayed by short-term markets, however. Liddell is therefore forging onwards.
In July, Lifezone bought long-standing business partner The Stimulus Group, a Perth-based hydrometallurgical laboratory, that will help further vertically integrate Lifezone. A memorandum of understanding is also to be signed with Glencore to process its platinum group metals by-products.
LIFE OF KEITH
As a metallurgist of more than 30 years’ standing, Keith Liddell’s Hydromet technology – or ‘Kell Process’ – is his ‘white whale’. He unsuccessfully strove for the technology’s adoption in Zimbabwe’s PGMs sector after failing to get investment from South Africa where, as MD of Aquarius Platinum, he developed the Kroondal Mine. Liddell has also been involved in gold, PGM and nickel exploration in Australia while his Mineral Securities Ltd. invested in Sedibelo Platinum Mines in South Africa. He currently chairs Colomi Singapore and is a director of Cornish Lithium and Tombador Iron.