BENEFITS of President Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts have started bearing fruit with communities in Fort Rixon, Insiza District, Matabeleland South Province set to benefit from massive infrastructure and emancipation programmes as the newly established Zulu Lithium Mine has started operations.
The conglomerate marked its arrival with the first blast on Friday, much to the delight of the local community that is already benefiting from the development. Apart from provision of employment and training to the community’s youths which are low hanging fruits, basic infrastructure such as roads and dams are going to be provided in addition to increased business activity that is expected to improve circulation of money in the rural economy.
The Zulu Lithium Mine is run by a multi-commodity mining and natural resource development company focused on Southern Africa, Premier African Minerals. On Friday, the local community led by Chief Jahana of Insiza welcomed the company in their area where they gave it blessings to commence their operations in a ceremony that was punctuated by song, dance and feasting. Speaking on the sidelines of the ceremony, Premier African Minerals chief executive officer Mr George Roach said the mine had started operations and would be feeding ore into the plant this week.
“The first blast was conducted during the course of this week at Zulu Lithium. At the moment the ore that has been fragmented has been moved to the run pad. We are anticipating that during the course of (this) week, we should start feeding the ore into the plant.
We are waiting for one regent to arrive which is on its way. The objective is to produce SE6 as it is known. It’s a concentrate and a step up in processing of the ore that we are planning to export. I think we are going to be one of the early producers of high grade Spodumene (source of lithium) in Zimbabwe,” said Mr Roach.
The company has set in motion key infrastructure developments that are empowering the community and improving their livelihoods.
“In terms of our relationship with the community, we have today been welcomed by the community led by Chief Jahana. We are extremely concerned that our development of this mine must be strongly associated with the development of the area to the benefit of the communities that are immediately associated with us.
We believe that some of the mine infrastructure that is being built such as the dam and roads are going to provide service to the community thereby impacting their lives on a positive note. We are gratified to announce that elements of the infrastructure are already beginning to benefit part of the community around us,” said Mr Roach.
He said they were also making improvements on the road infrastructure and it was going to ease the cost of travelling to Bulawayo which was prohibitive because there was no transport as roads were in bad shape.
“The community has been testifying that business within the community has generally improved with general suppliers busy. I think these are some of the indirect benefits that are already there before we even start producing. I think this infrastructure creation will lead to sustainable improvements that people are going to see,” said Mr Roach.
He said it has been part of their culture that wherever they are able to find skills within the community that match their requirements at the mine, they engage and employ from the community in addition to most unskilled labour.
“In some cases, we have been able to train and upgrade some people to offer them better positions. Our view and belief is that we would rather engage people from the community and see those people go home after taking their earnings and benefits and live in a family environment happy,” said Mr Roach.
Speaking at the same ceremony, Chief Jahana expressed gratitude on the country’s engagement drive saying such huge investments were a result of a successful policy by the Second Republic. He implored the community to be peaceful and disciplined.
“We are delighted to have our ‘in-laws’ today who have expressed interests in extracting lithium from within our community. We expect them to empower the community as we have seen some of the works that they have down. Already some of us have been employed by the company in various capacities.
What I expect is for us as a community is to be disciplined, and peaceful so that we do not portray a bad image of our community. Let us co-exist with this investment and enjoy the development that comes with it,” said Chief Jahana.
The project is expected to play a key role in spearheading the growth of the mining sector.