Q&A Session 9 - Giyani Metals
Welcome to our Q&A Session with Robin Birchall, CEO at Giyani Metals. Giyani is a mineral resource company focused on the advancement of its manganese assets within the Kanye Basin in south-eastern Botswana, Africa.
The Q&A will cover:
Role of manganese in Electric Vehicles (EVs)
Operating in Botswana
Giyani’s Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) activity and aspirations
1) CMA: What role do you think manganese can play in the green energy transition and in decarbonisation of transport?
Robin: High purity manganese sulphate is a precursor material of many of the dominant types of lithium-ion cathodes used in electric vehicles (EVs). The mass adoption of EVs in place of traditional hydrocarbon-fuelled combustion engine vehicles is seen as crucial to lowering emissions and minimising climate change.
Just like nickel, lithium and cobalt, manganese is a critical component of a large proportion of cathodes currently in use, but only a very high purity sulphate form can be used in batteries. With concerns over the cost of sourcing responsible and sustainable sources of cobalt, many EV manufacturers have started looking at replacing current nickel-cobalt-manganese cathodes with more manganese-rich formulations in their mass market vehicles.
Sources of responsibly mined HPMSM are very rare and China currently dominates the battery manganese processing sector, therefore the large EV manufacturers are very keen to diversify their critical supply chains with new low carbon suppliers.
2) CMA: Can you tell us about Giyani and the company’s background?
Robin: Giyani is a TSXV-listed company developing a portfolio of high-grade manganese oxide deposits for the production of low carbon, high purity manganese sulphate monohydrate (HPMSM), a raw material for lithium-ion battery cathodes.
Giyani has been focused on battery metals development since 2018 when it recognised the potential for its Botswana deposits to produce HPMSM directly from ore and since then the company has completed its preliminary economic assessment (PEA) over its flagship K.Hill Project, with a 80% post-tax Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for production of 120,000 tonnes of HPMSM per annum, and is finalising a feasibility study. Meanwhile, we have continued to explore the various deposits and are building a significant resource base, with a view to upgrading production capacity over time.
While we finalise our feasibility, next year will see the construction of a demonstration plant to produce small quantities of our HPMSM product. This is crucial to confirm operating performance of our process flow sheet, but also to provide samples for our prospective end-users – large automotive and battery manufacturers – to test prior to entering binding offtake contacts.
3) CMA: What are some of the challenges and benefits of operating in Botswana?
Robin: Botswana is consistently ranked as one of the best jurisdictions in the world for new mining projects, given its rich legacy of diamond mining and highly educated population. Building mines requires a supportive local community and experienced government and we are fortunate that Botswana offers us both. The Mines Ministry are keen to diversify their commodity inventory and so are very keen to see a battery metals project developed in the country, but reporting to a department staffed with experienced mining engineers does mean that we are held to close account on our technical and social objectives.
Obviously, with our primary markets likely to be in Europe and the US, direct access to port facilities would be advantageous, but we are well served by road and rail to multiple export routes in South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique. Being so close to South Africa, and its highly sophisticated hydrometallurgical industry, and long history of manganese development, is a tremendous advantage.
4) CMA: Can you tell us more about how Giyani adheres to Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) best practice? What are some of your latest initiatives?
Robin: As a supplier to the EV market, the sustainability and responsibility of our operations are just as important of the quality of our product. Our environmental and social performance will be directly audited by our end-users and so if we do not align with the highest standards of ESG then we will lose customers. This year we recruited Marion Thomas as our VP of ESG, who has a wealth of experience in the mining sector and has instituted a bottom-up approach to ESG integration in our operations.
A good example is our research into the integration of solar power into our power mix, despite having excellent access to the local grid. Botswana’s domestic power is sourced largely from coal-fired generation and so an off-grid, hybrid solar solution will significantly reduce our carbon footprint. Being a relatively large local power consumer, we can also provide a keystone industrial customer for a solar developer looking to develop a clean alternative to grid power for local residents and businesses.
5) CMA: What would your advice be to any young person considering a career in mineral extraction?
Robin: The best advice I would give is to focus on a subject that you love and give yourself the broadest experience of it across the industry. The world is going to demand a huge amount from the mining sector to meet its climate goals and so it is a priceless opportunity for young professionals to get a wide exposure to different practices and conditions around the world. Although end-user technologies and markets are changing rapidly, the fundamentals of good geology, metallurgy and engineering will underpin the entire decarbonisation revolution.
6) CMA: Why did you decide to join the CMA?
Robin: As a prospective producer of battery metals for the EV market, Giyani will be part of the critical mineral supply chain for a huge consumer base. However, the role that small companies like ours will play in the fight against climate change and the urgency of a change in attitude towards mining is still not being recognised at the highest levels. Our ideal is to be a supplier of cathode materials to a burgeoning British battery market and a user of British mining expertise, but this can only happen with the support of the UK government to promote a responsible supply chain and an understanding of what it takes (the natural, human and financial resources) to change our way of life.
Without groups like the CMA alerting governments and regulators of the challenges of producing new sources of critical minerals and working with the mining industry to find solutions, we will inevitably struggle to meet our decarbonisation ambitions.
Find out more about Giyani Metals here: https://giyanimetals.com/about