HARARE – Road construction workers have stumbled on “huge” lithium deposits along the Harare-Beitbridge highway near Ngundu, ZimLive can reveal.
The accidental discovery was made between Ngundu and Runde by workers from Bitumen, one of the companies contracted for the 582km road upgrade.
A company source said: “As the workers were widening the road, they came to a section which is close to a mountain and they had to trim the side of the mountain a bit. That’s when they stumbled on the lithium ore.
“There are massive mountains there and the deposits must be huge.”
Officials from the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe and the mines ministry have been to the site and confirmed that the lithium ore deposits “could be significant,” according to the source.
Zimbabwe has the largest lithium reserves in Africa and has in recent years drawn investors in battery minerals from Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, although China is the dominant player.
The country has been mining lithium for over 60 years, but it is only recently that worldwide demand has surged due to its increasing usage in the manufacturing of rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras, military hardware and electric vehicles.
Other industrial applications include in heat-resistant glass and ceramics, lubricating greases and lithium-ion batteries.
The proliferation of lithium mining activities across Zimbabwe has put local populations at odds with miners who are accused of altering the landscape and desecrating their ancestral lands, including what some consider as “sacred” mountains.
To cash in on demand, Zimbabwe last year banned the export of raw lithium ore. In doing so, it joined countries like Indonesia and Chile that are trying to maximise their return on deposits of lithium, cobalt and nickel by requiring miners to invest locally in refining and processing before they can export.
The locally-produced concentrate is further processed into battery-grade carbonate when exported outside Zimbabwe. In 2022, the average price of battery-grade lithium carbonate was estimated at US$37,000 per metric ton. – ZimLive