At first glance, the first-ever lithium processing facility in Nigeria appears to be backed by three of China’s biggest players in the battery manufacturing sector. However, the roster of companies who ponied up the $250 million in investments for the project are not affiliated in any way with their namesakes currently listed in exchanges in Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
While the names CATL, Ganfeng, and Tianqi are known to those active in the global mining and renewable power industries, Ganfeng Lithium Industry Ltd, Ningde Era Industrial Ltd, and Tianqi Lithium Industrial Ltd are not connected to any of them; in fact, closer scrutiny shows that these are companies locally established in Nigeria owned and operated by several Chinese citizens.
Despite the questionable provenance of the companies’ names, their infusion of $250 million into the plant is in keeping with the Nigerian government’s drive toward economic diversification. The country hopes to veer away from dependence on fossil fuels and capitalize on the impending boom-time for the electric vehicle (EV) sector which catapulted lithium into a highly sought-after commodity.
A Controversial Groundbreaking
Ganfeng’s Nigerian doppelganger held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new lithium plant on October 12th, inviting the country’s Solid Minerals Minister Dele Alake to the event in Nasarawa in the northern part of Nigeria. At the groundbreaking, company executives declared that the facility would be up and running within the next couple of years and would have a daily refining output of up to 18,000 tons of lithium ore.
Just a week after the ceremony, Nigerian Ganfeng described itself as a much-respected player in the Chinese mining sector that was completely separate from its globally recognized namesake. In the same statement made to the press, it added that it has never worked with its counterpart in any capacity, let alone used any of its resources.
For his part, Alake has made no comment on the great similarity the local companies’ names had with their bigger counterparts in Mainland China. He did, however, say that the facility would eventually become the first company anywhere in Africa to produce EV batteries – a contrary statement to that issued by Nigerian Ganfeng claiming that they would only make and sell lithium carbonate for the production of such batteries.