BHP-backed Tanzania nickel miner in talks for offtake contracts
* Lifezone Metals sees strong interest from EVs, battery makers
* Company sees potential for bigger nickel mine at Kabanga deposit
By Felix Njini
NAIROBI, May 24 (Reuters) - BHP Group-backed Lifezone Metals, which is developing a nickel mine in Tanzania, is negotiating supply deals with several electric vehicle manufacturers and battery makers as the race for energy transition metals intensifies, its CEO said. The process run by RBC Capital Markets to sell yet-to-be-produced metal from Lifezone's Kabanga Nickel project has attracted strong interest from EV and battery companies, some of which have been to the mine site, CEO Chris Showalter said. He declined to provide names, and said no agreements had yet been reached.Lifezone Metals, which plans to list in New York this year via a blank-check acquisition deal that values the firm at around $1 billion, owns the Kabanga nickel and cobalt mine and refinery in north-west Tanzania. BHP currently holds a minority stake in Kabanga and has an option to raise its interest in the mine to 51% and subsequently become its operator, Showalter said. The global miner is pivoting back to Africa after exiting the continent in 2015 when it spun off South32. The Tanzanian government also holds a minority stake in Kabanga. Via the deals currently under discussion, Lifezone could sell its share of output, equivalent to 40% of the metal produced at the facility, to help raise the capital it requires for the mine's development, Showalter said.
"Primarily what we are looking for is a prepayment structure," Showalter told Reuters. "In our view this would replace the more traditional project finance portion of the project funding." EVs and battery manufacturers wanting to secure supplies from the mine could have to compete for offtake rights, Showalter, a former investment banker, said. Nickel, key to growth in electric vehicles, is used in lithium-ion batteries, and helps vehicle manufactures to use less cobalt.
Indonesia currently accounts for around 40% of the world's nickel supply, with much of it controlled by Chinese companies. With BHP's backing, there is potential to expand on plans to produce about 60,000 tons of refined nickel from initial expectations of about 40,000 tons, Showalter said.Mining is expected to start toward end of 2026. (Reporting by Felix Njini; Editing by Jan Harvey)