ZIMBABWE’s lithium deposits, which are the largest in Africa and fifth in the world, have set the country on course to becoming a key player in the green revolution.
As the world moves from fossil fuels to green energy largely powered by solar and lithium batteries, Zimbabwe has witnessed an unprecedented influx of lithium mining investments.
The country boasts of several lithium projects that have an investment value of more than US$5 billion and these include Bikita Mine with a resource deposit of more than 11 million tonnes.
In Goromonzi, Mashonaland East Province, there is Arcadia Mine which is targeting an annual production of 200 000 tonnes, while Sabi Star Mine in Manicaland province is anticipating production of more than one million tonnes of raw ore.
Mirrorplex Mine in Shamva, Mutoko Lithium, Zulu Lithium and Kamativi Mine are some of the mines leading the country’s green revolution.
Development economist, Mr Luxon Zembe is upbeat about the prospects that lie ahead, especially after the government banned exports of raw lithium ore.
‘‘The lithium rush currently being experienced in the country is quite encouraging as it will place the economy on the right path to sustainable development if managed well, taking into consideration the finite nature of these mineral resources.’’
Mineral investment economist, Dr Lyman Mlambo is equally confident that the country is on the right path towards industrialisation.
‘‘Lithium has got many uses from that range from industrial, energy provision as well as medical which makes the production going around the country. A yawning opportunity for value chain investment to take place inside the country and government is justified by banning the exportation of raw ore.’’
With the current trajectory in the mining sector, particularly in lithium production, there is hope that the US$12 billion extractive economy is attainable by the end of the year.
AS the country moves to grow the mining sector, a new entry in the lithium sub-sector, Zulu Lithium Mine in Fort Rixon, Insiza area of Matabeleland South Province has set a target to put its first four thousand tonnes on the market by the end of the first quarter.
With the demand of lithium increasing across the globe, Zimbabwe is poised to consolidate its gains from the key mineral as more entities come on board.
A visit to the mining site by ZBC News revealed massive progress with the dam set to provide water at the facility also nearing completion.
The multi-million United States dollar plant will produce high-grade lithium used in the production of batteries as revealed by the mine manager, Mr Jabulani Chirasha.
‘‘We started exploration on March 21 after we got an EPL from the government. We are 50 percent complete with the plant processes. We still have a lot of trucks that are coming in. We are targeting that by the 14th we will do a hot commissioning of the plant and see if everything is in order.
“We have created a 24-hour working environment. The mine is the one behind you and in a week or two we will start exposing the ore. The spodumene we have here is the battery grade, the nature of the ore is of high value,’’ he said.
Mr Chirasha is upbeat about the mining project and believes it will be among the biggest lithium projects in the country focusing more on beneficiation before export.
‘‘For us as a nation, this will be one of the big lithium mines. Anyone who wants to sell lithium ore in its roar form is an opportunist.’’
The new mines dotted around the country have also come with employment opportunities for locals.
It was no surprise as the ZBC News crew arrived at the mine to hordes of locals gathered at the site after word reached them that the mine was recruiting more workers.
As they speak of their hopes of getting employed, they are also eager to see the mine contributing to community development.
A villager told the ZBC News, ‘‘We are saying the mine authorities should make sure our area is developed.’’
Another villager said, ‘‘I got here at 5:00 am and I’m hoping to get a job. I also hope more of our children will get employed in the future.’’
For those already employed, the benefits are already being felt.
One employee said, ‘‘I am grateful to have this opportunity to be working at this mine.’’
The authorities at mine say they expect to double the size of the current plant in the next three years.
Mining is among the key sectors that are contributing to Zimbabwe’s economic growth with the industry hoping to be worth US$12 billion by the end of the year.