Zimbabwe commissions pilot lithium plant

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HARARE – Zimbabwe’s prospects of becoming a major supplier of lithium, a critical raw material for modern batteries, inched closer yesterday with the commissioning of a pilot plant at Arcadia Lithium Mine near Harare.

Australia-listed Prospect Resources, which secured a long-term off-take partner for Arcadia with Sibelco of Belgium, has been moving forward with its mining venture that will see high-grade lithium ore from Zimbabwe competing on world markets.

Demand for lithium is growing fast and as the world switches to electric cars, lithium consumption will grow exceptionally fast as the metal is the principal raw material for modern batteries.

Lithium is seen as one of the wide range of mining products that will push Zimbabwe’s economy forward.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando, speaking at yesterday’s function, was upbeat about the progress made at Arcadia.

“We are seated here at the eighth largest hard rock lithium deposit in the world. We are seated on the largest lithium petalite deposit in the world. 

“They are now at a stage where they are now getting into meaningful production, the first stage being the pilot plant. It is a very important landmark.”

The Arcadia Lithium Mine pilot plant is set to provide a pathway for Zimbabwe to become one of the biggest lithium producers in the world, and is expected to start delivering petalite concentrates to Chinese and Russian customers .

“This Arcadia mining project is part of Vision 2030 and the US$12-billion mining economy by the year 2023 and signifies the hard work that the Government, courtesy of President Emmerson Mnangagwa who has created a conducive economic environment that has invited foreign investors. Indeed, this pilot plant will culminate into full lithium production,” said Minister Chitando.

Chairman of the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Mining Development, Edmond Mkaratigwa, said the positive progress being witnessed is a sign that local policies have been crafted in a way that makes capital comfortable in this country.

“The Second Republic has made it very clear that Zimbabwe was open for business, and the progress being witnessed in foreign owned businesses is a sign of commitment to that pledge.

“We continue encouraging other investors across the globe to come and exploit opportunities available in this country. The Zimbabwe economy is being configured for an upper middle income society and this is the opportune time for investment,” he said.

Mr Mkaratigwa also implored investors to exploit the entire value chain by processing the minerals they mine.

“Beneficiation and value addition of minerals before export is one of the four key pillars of Zimbabwe’s goal to create value, employment and accelerated industrial development from its largely unexploited mineral resources.

“We continue to urge companies to use the entire value chain and add value to the minerals which will culminate into the creation of more jobs and revenue for the fiscas. 

Prospect Resources executive director Mr Paul Chimbodza described the commissioning of the pilot plant as an important step for Zimbabwe to become a global lithium hub, with over US$18 million having been invested so far.

“This mine is the eighth largest and contains high purity lithium products. The drilling of over 26 000 meters of exploration has indeed provided us with confident results that we are sure will bring in more investment in the mine,” said Chimbodza.

Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Mashonaland East Senator Apollonia Munzverengwi welcomed the mining venture, highlighting its importance in boosting the provincial economy.

“As Mashonaland East Province, we embrace this exciting development in helping create jobs, boost the provincial economy and also enhance value addition.”