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Sibanye-Stillwater well positioned as climate resilient business – Froneman


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Sibanye-Stillwater well positioned as climate resilient business – Froneman

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Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman
Sibanye-Stillwater sigmoid growth curves
Sibanye-Stillwater PGMs and battery metals growth projections.

27th October 2021

By: Martin Creamer
Creamer Media Editor


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JOHANNESBURG ( – Precious and green metals company Sibanye-Stillwater is well positioned as a climate-change resilient business in the future green economy, says CEO Neal Froneman, who emphasises environmental, social and governance (ESG) as being core to the company’s strategy as it achieves its objective of building an operating portfolio of green metals and related technologies.

The two key aspects of developing a climate-change resilient business are its road to carbon neutrality, already embodied, and the portfolio of green metals, which is driving its external growth strategy. All the sustainability goals of the United Nations feature in supporting ESG commitments.


The Johannesburg- and New York-listed Sibanye-Stillwater’s announcement of the nickel, cobalt and copper Santa Rita and Serrote transaction on Monday augments Wednesday’s purchase of 19.99% of the zinc tailings retreating New Century Resources, along with last year’s Keliber lithium and Sandouville nickel/cobalt transactions, and this year’s Rhyolite Ridge joint venture lithium deal.

Froneman expresses full confidence in the outlook for the transitioning of platinum group metals (PGMs) into the hydrogen economy.


This will take place as Sibanye-Stillwater strengthens its position in the circular economy through the recycling of PGMs and battery metals, as well as through tailings retreatment, which is already substantial through DRDGold.

“Core to our strategy is embedding ESG excellence. It’s the way we do business – and that’s evolved into a sustainability strategy,” says Froneman, who made clear his preference for being known as the company’s chief enabling officer rather than its CEO.

Froneman has led the company’s transformation from its inception as a 1.5-million-ounce gold producer and arising out of its sustainability strategy is its portfolio of green metals and related technologies.

The sustainability themes that underpin Sibanye-Stillwater’s ESG commitments are identified as:

  • embedding human rights and ethics;
  • developing a climate-change resilience;
  • entrenching long-term economic sustainability; and
  • being data driven on the basis of “what you can’t measure, you can’t manage” within what Froneman describes as a “considered-decision-making business”.

All this comes against the achievement of Sibanye-Stillwater establishing itself as an industry-leading dividend payer through its gold business, which still has long life.

After two years of planning, a “considered decision” was taken to enter PGMs, initially in Southern Africa and then from 2017 in the US, which gave it access to the circular economy through the acquired Stillwater’s PGMs recycling business.

That provided an in-depth understanding of the underlying demands for the world’s car pool and how that would include battery electric vehicles, which led to two more years of getting to know the electric power train.

In 2019, SFA (Oxford) was acquired to assist in doing that, which led to the development of the company’s fourth sigmoid curve into green metals. (Also see attached graphic).

Now understood are the chemistries important for battery metals, taking in metals including lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite and copper – as well as uranium from gold operations.

“There’s no doubt, there’s strong demand for both battery metals and PGMs. Out until 2030, we see very little change in PGM demand. We do see very significant penetration rates by battery electric vehicles. We see fuel cell electric vehicles becoming more of the demand post-2030.

“But I also want to say that we believe that most assumptions on battery electric vehicle penetration rates are overstated – and that will become evident when you look at the deficits in the metals that are required to achieve that.

“We remain very confident in our very substantial PGMs business but we're building a value proposition in getting exposure to the battery metals as well,” says Froneman, who was speaking during an online briefing covered by Mining Weekly. (Also see attached graphic).


Froneman says the growth in nickel demand is predominantly through growing battery demand, which is expected to reach about 20% of overall nickel demand.

Copper is absolutely essential to reaching global decarbonisation goals through electrification but deepening deficits are emerging from 2025, when mine depletion is forecast. The scrap recovery, which is supporting refined output, is seen to be insufficient to fill the supply gap.

The same deficit picture is clear for lithium through the adoption of battery electric vehicles. While gross lithium demand is expected to rise by 17% a year, the base case increase in the supply of lithium from mines is forecast to be only 2% a year. Battery electric vehicles are expected to comprise 80% of demand growth.

“Clearly, these deficits tell you that something’s got to change. You cannot have such large deficits. Again, our view is that this will have an impact on the rate of penetration of battery electric vehicles into the global car pool, which will, of course, be to the benefit of PGMs as well. But they will both play a role and hence our need to have exposure to all these metals,” adds Froneman.


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