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Tantalex secures Glencore's backing for Congo lithium project

An employee of a private security company stands in front of the logo of commodities trader Glencore in Cham

NAIROBI/ TORONTO (Reuters) - Tantalex Lithium, a Canadian junior miner that is aiming to produce lithium from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said on Friday its tailings project has secured the backing of Glencore.

The Swiss miner and trader will pay a staggered $5 million to Tantalex as part of the marketing off-take agreement and has agreed to finance a third of the capital requirements for the DRC project, if it meets its conditions, Tantalex said in a statement.

Glencore has agreed a term-sheet to market the spodumene concentrate - or high-purity lithium ore - that will be produced at the Tantalex's Manono tailings project in the Congo.

Tailings dams, which can tower dozens of meters high and stretch for several kilometres, are a common waste-disposal method for miners.

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Some of the dumps at Manono tailings, deposited several years ago, reach maximum heights of 70 metres (230 ft), Tantalex said on its website.

The deal is subject to Glencore conducting due diligence and its backing of Manono helps to de-risk the project, Tantalex CEO Eric Allard said.

Glencore, which mines copper and cobalt in the DRC started to trade lithium around a year ago, even though it has said it has no interest in owning lithium assets outright.

Allard said Glencore's expertise in the country "will be crucial for developing further our activities in the DRC."

Globally, mining companies and manufacturers are scrambling to secure supplies for lithium, which is key to boosting growth in battery electric vehicles as the world seeks faster alternatives to clean energy.

"The capital expenditure financing commitment is a significant milestone in the de-risking of the project and achieving our goal to become the first lithium producer in the DRC," Allard said.

(Reporting by Felix Njini and Divya Rajagopal; Additional reporting by Clara Denina; Editing by Marguerita Choy)