“We’re at an exciting place where we have many options.
RULI Diseko is part of a new generation of South African mining entrepreneurs who will hopefully come to define the future of the sector in the country. And Diseko has his eye on the road ahead, turning his sights on the electric vehicle (EV) market and its promise for battery metals. He founded Thakadu Battery Metals in 2015, an indication that he was already ahead of the curve. In 2021, Thakadu Group announced the commissioning of a R300m nickel sulphate refinery located on the premises of Sibanye-Stillwater’s Marikana platinum group metals (PGM) operation. Nickel sulphate is a key ingredient in the making of EV batteries and so its potential market is regarded as mammoth.
And given Sibanye’s aggressive moves into the green metals space, Thakadu might be an ideal takeover target, but Diseko has played such a scenario down. Speaking to Miningmx, Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman said of Thakadu that: “You can produce nickel metal you can sell; however, if you get to produce high-quality nickel sulphate … that’s what the battery manufacturers want and it gives you a competitive edge.” Froneman at the time - April 2021 - declined to say if Thakadu was on his list of assets to hunt down. Thakadu is currently backed by South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation and a group of wealthy investors who no doubt expect a return, for example via dividends. Diseko has mooted the possibility of an offshore listing but not one on the JSE, given its limited capital pools. So he is probably looking at Wall Street or the City rather than Gwen Lane, which speaks to his ambitions.
LIFE OF RULI
Diseko, a University of Cape Town commerce graduate, hails from Soweto and launched his career as a commodities trader before joining the now-extinct platinum producer, Lonmin. He then struck out on his own, betting all he had to finance R6m of research work by Mintek, the government-owned mining research institute. This would become Thakadu’s proprietary process technology.