China's Zijin Mining launches first lithium exploration project in DRC

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The company logo of Zijin Mining Group Co Ltd, China's biggest listed gold producer, is displayed at a news conference following its annual results in Hong Kong, China March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

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BEIJING, Jan 24 (Reuters) - China's Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd said on Monday it had officially launched its first lithium exploration project through a joint venture with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)-owned firm Cominiere.

The joint venture, called Katamba Mining, has secured mining rights to two greenfield exploration and mining projects at the periphery of the Manono lithium mine in the DRC, "in order to enhance Zijin's competitiveness in new energy minerals," the miner said in a statement.

Manono lithium mine is controlled by Australia's AVZ Minerals (AVZ.AX), and the mine's reserves of lithium oxide reach 8.78 million tonnes, the statement said.

Global demand for lithium is rising as the mineral is used in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

Earlier in November, Zijin Mining had also approved investment in a smelter for its Kamoa-Kakula copper project alongside Ivanhoe Mines (IVN.TO) in the DRC in a move to reduce reliance on third-party smelters.

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Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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