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Zimbabwe to manufacture lithium batteries

by Staff reporter
16 Oct 2022 at 15:40hrs | Views
Polite Kambamura - Mining Development Deputy Minister
Zimbabwe plans to manufacture lithium batteries and has since struck an agreement with a potential investor willing to set up a plant, Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura has said.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the foreign investor was reportedly signed last week.

Lithium is a critical component in lithium-ion batteries that underpin the transition to green energy.

"We signed an MoU with a company interested in manufacturing lithium batteries in Mapinga, Mashonaland West province, and we expect this to be a game changer," said Deputy Minister Kambamura.

"Our big advantage is that we have most of the mineral components needed for manufacturing of the batteries, including nickel, cobalt and copper.

"We have no doubt the project will make Zimbabwe the hub for lithium batteries in the region."

However, analysts say Zimbabwe needs huge investments to produce battery-grade lithium.

"We need to address issues such as skills and the technology. That is critical," said mining expert Engineer Fred Moyo.

The global crusade to reduce carbon emissions has led to growing demand for low-carbon technology.

Countries are increasingly embracing solar and wind as alternative sources of energy as opposed to fossil fuels such as coal.

Vehicle makers are also shifting to electric vehicles while financial institutions are cutting back spending on coal-fired power stations.

The urgent need for climate change mitigation is driving the unprecedented demand for metals such as lithium, copper and nickel.

Zimbabwe holds Africa's largest lithium reserves.

"It is encouraging that the interest is cutting across, from mining to beneficiation . . . These projects will be a game changer," added Mr Kambamura.

New investments

Chinese investors have led the way in securing interests in lithium mining, not only in Zimbabwe, but also elsewhere in Africa and South America.

Norway-based independent energy research and business intelligence company Rystad Energy claims that while China owned 65 percent of the world's lithium processing and refining facilities last year, it accounts for less than 25 percent of deposits.

Sinomine Resource Group recently paid US$180 million to acquire a 74 percent stake in Bikita Minerals, which began mining lithium in 1953.

In December last year, Huayou, one of the world's major producers of cobalt, also completed a US$422 million acquisition of the Arcadia hard-rock lithium mine.

The Arcadia project, which is near Harare, is considered one of the world's largest hard-rock lithium resources, a key component in the production of rechargeable batteries.

It will start producing lithium-containing minerals spodumene and petalite next year.

"We are targeting to complete our project by the end of the year so that we can start commissioning and production in the first quarter of 2023. As we speak, we are on course to achieving that," said mine manager, Mr George Togara.

"Looking at the policy or the outlook from the Government to achieve a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023, which is next year, we will be producing the products and exporting, so we are coming in at the right time, where we are going to be playing a major role in achieving the Government's target," he said.

Chengxin Lithium Group similarly spent US$77 million to acquire mining rights in the largely unexplored Sabi Star lithium-tantalum mine project in Buhera. The company said it has invested US$22 million in exploration, feasibility studies and civil works.

"By the time we start producing lithium concentrate, we should have injected US$130 million. This should be done by the end of the second quarter of 2023," said project manager, Mr Elfas Mugova.

The company will embark on further exploration to increase the life of the mine from the current six years.

Source - Sunday Mail