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Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting tips in more cash for lithium aspirant Vulcan Energy Resources

Article by Adrian Rauso, courtesy of The West Australian

Gina Rinehart is going back to her lithium roots by pouring in more than $20 million to expand her stake in Vulcan Energy Resources, which is looking to bring a zero emissions lithium operation in Germany to life.

St Georges Terrace headquartered Vulcan announced on Monday it had raised €40m ($65m) via a share placement that also included CIMIC, Australia’s largest privately-owned builder, and Melbourne’s wealthy Smorgon family.

Mrs Rinehart’s Hancock contributed €12.5m ($20.4m) to the capital raising to be anointed as Vulcan’s second largest shareholder with a 7 per cent stake, now only sitting behind the company’s executive chairman Francis Wedin.

Hancock became a substantial shareholder in Vulcan during February 2021 and it is understood the investment vehicle of Australia’s richest person was on the register prior with a stake below 5 per cent.

Vulcan is boosting cash reserves to push forward with its Zero Carbon lithium project in Germany’s Upper Rhine Valley, a region traditionally known for oil production.

The project proposes to pump lithium brine to the surface using deep wells and is expected to produce a starting 24,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide by the end of 2025.

The €1.8 billion ($2.9b) operation is being positioned to supply electric vehicle manufacturers in Europe.

Vulcan told investors last month that it wants to fund the development via a 65 per cent debt and 35 per cent equity mix.

It is currently lining up a €500m loan from the European Investment Bank, and has indications of export credit agency support from Australia, Canada, Italy and France.

Vulcan chief executive Cris Moreno touted the credentials of CIMIC and Hancock on Monday.

“Both parties have demonstrated experience in the delivery of globally significant, major projects and are eminently complementary to Vulcan’s strategy of producing Europe’s first sustainable battery-grade lithium products,” he said.

“The substantial investments by both parties will enable the early commencement of important validation works ahead of the formal engineering, procurement and construction management contract, maintaining momentum on the project timeline and optimising the overall execution program as we move towards final funding and construction.”

The investment in Vulcan was Mrs Rinehart’s first foray into lithium and a pre-cursor to her huge splurge on fellow aspirants Liontown Resources and Azure Minerals.