Zimbabwe is the fifth largest producer of Lithium on the planet (right after Australia, Chile, Argentina and China). Latest data available (2016) estimates production at the level of 900 MT (4,791 MT Lithium Carbonate Equivalent).
The Bikita mine is one of the largest lithium mines in Zimbabwe. The mine is located in southern part of the country in Masvingo Province, known for its natural beauty. The Bikita mine has reserves amounting to 10.8-11 million tonnes of lithium ore grading 1.4% lithium and thus resulting in around 0.15 million tonnes of lithium. Bikita mine is run by Bikita Minerals, Zimbabwe’s largest Lithium producer. In 2017 according to sources Bikita Minerals spend around USD 7 millions on equipment upgrade and further geological expansion.
The mine comprising of A Li-Sn-Cs rich pegmatite is located 40 miles E of Fort Victoria. It is in production for over 60 years, mining and marketing over 60,000 tonnes of Li and Cs ore per year. It is also considered as the largest Petalite deposit in the world.
Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1982.
Its vision was to create a vibrant and versatile mining power house necessary to transform Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth to the world class standards. ZDMC owns Kamativi Mine. Historically exploited mostly for its Tin deposits and closed since 1994 when the world Tin prices collapsed. In 2016 Beijing Pinchang (once subsidiary of Chinese Railways) agreed to a deal which would see it injecting $100 million for a 49 percent stake in Kamativi Mine. Zimbabwe’s Minister Mr. Chidhakwa stated that a team of six geologists and metallurgists were on the ground carrying out valuations of other minerals found along with tin.
“When Kamativi closed they were only mining tin which also had other minerals such as tantalite which are now significant minerals on the market now. Therefore any attempt to re-open Kamativi without looking at the seven other minerals believed to be there is disadvantaging the country,” – Mr. Chidhakwa stated.
He could as well mentioned Lithium. The 800 wells tested by Chinese investor and government geologist showed that there is more Lithium (Spodumene) on the site to be extracted than Tin. According to government officials mine is scheduled to resume in operations soon. Yet, no expected date has been revealed. The estimated costs of resuming the operations of the mine has been quoted by local media in the wide range of $40-100 million.
Deposits in Zimbabwe inlude deposits at Kamativi Mine, Bikita Mine, Zulu Project, Arcadia Lithium Project. The country also has some lithium deposits in Mberengwa, Mutoko and some areas around Harare. ZImbabwe is the richest country in Africa in Lithium deposits.
Plans for production
There are 2 major Lithium projects in Zimbabwe, managed by:
Premier African Minerals
Dating back to 2007, when it was named G&B African Resources Ltd. and listed on Alternative Investment Market in London. “The Group has acquired mineral assets in various stages of development throughout Africa, including mineral assets where there has been historical production.
The Group’s management has a proven track record of value creation in African mineral exploration with two members of the Board having been involved, as a founder and director, with UraMin Inc., a uranium exploration company sold to Areva for over US$2.5 billion in 2007. The founders are financially committed to the Group[..]”
Its flagship Lithium project “Zulu” is 80km from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. The Mineral Resource Estimate contains 526,000 tonnes of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (“LCE”) and the initial tests indicated a commercial grade, high quality spodumene and petalite deposits.
“Prospect Resources Limited (ASX:PSC) is a Southern Africa focused Lithium and Gold mining and exploration company based in Perth with operations in Zimbabwe.
Prospect’s flagship project is the Arcadia Lithium Project located on the outskirts of Harare in Zimbabwe. The Arcadia Lithium Project represents a globally significant hard rock lithium resource and has been aggressively developed focusing on near term production of petalite and spodumene concentrates”.
Ore Reserve of 15.8Mt grading 1.34% Li2O and 124ppm Ta2O are estimated, also relatively low start-up capex is projected at USD 52.5 Millions (one can compare it to restarting costs of Kamativi Mine which almost double this figure). Integrated Lithium chemical plant on the side is also considered. It would be much welcomed by the economy hungry of value added products.
Locally, lithium is only used in glass making at Zimglass in Gweru. Prospect Resources looks forward to production in 3Q of 2018.
According to Zimbabwe’s Financial Gazette there are major tensions between locals and Bikita Minerals, that according to the newspaper is devouring the charming panorama into a wasteland as it extracts lithium.
Further Financial Gazette states:
“The community is accusing management and the mine of failing to comply with the Mines and Minerals Act on environmental issues. They say they have been without clean water for the last two years because rivers were being polluted by discharge of potentially toxic chemicals.”
“A range of artificial hills formed by mine dumps of quarry dust are replacing the original landscape that now has very little vegetation growing. Patches of grass and low bush break the now barren-looking landscape.”
Whole story is available under this link
Another stream of accusations against Bikita Minerals has been presented by local The Sunday News:
“Newly-elected Bikita West member of the National Assembly Cde Beauty Chabaya has said she will meet directors of Bikita Minerals to complain over the alleged company reluctance to support community projects as stipulated by the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.
She said the company which produces lithium and tantalite is obliged to play its corporate social responsibility through developing schools, clinics and roads in Bikita.
“We are aware that Bikita Minerals rakes in a lot of revenue through exploiting resources in Bikita West but not doing anything for communities. The company must help in the construction of schools, clinics and roads, borehole drilling and rehabilitation.
“I will engage the company’s directors over the matter. If they are adamant they will risk losing their operating licence,” said Cde Chabaya.”
Full article on this story available under the link
In December 2017 Zimbabwe softened its Indiginisation and Empowerement Act, which compelled foreign investors to transfer 51% of shares to black Zimbabweans. The law still applies to diamond and platinum projects.
A 15% tax on raw lithium exports has been introduced.
The Zimbabwe Investment Handbook for 2017 has been also published by government, available for donwloading which is focused on opportunities in mineral sector.
Political situation however remains fragile as Emmerson Mnangagwa took power after a military takeover made Robert Mugabe to resign. It remains to be seen if the change in power will open up and strenghten Zimbabwean economy, even if current prospects are positive.