Lithium mining in Zimbabwe is on the rise with young entrepreneurs anticipating that the sector will produce millions of dollars in less than five years.
Efforts to diversify lithium sources will attract foreign investment into Africa in the coming years as major economies look to secure the mineral for their battery supply chains.
Speaking to Great Dyke News 24, Barmlo investments founder Dr. Banabasi Marambire who recently acquired a lithium claim in Mutoko said there are a lot of opportunities being created by lithium hence he wants to be the first young entrepreneur to establish a battery processing plant in the country.
“It’s a thing of the past where Africans have been taken for granted and have had our resources taken out of our land at a cheaper price. I will fight for production to be done in Zimbabwe.
“The opportunities that are coming with lithium are broad in terms of transporting lithium from various places to the processing plant.
“Those who were privileged to peg mining for lithium are lucky even though now we are in suspense but those who already own mines can extract the ore, process and then export or otherwise sell it to other investors who have got the capacity to process it for exportation.
“But my take is, I would like to process the lithium to the last point and if it’s possible to have a battery manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe. I have been making some inquiries from some guys in America and also some guys in China but the guys from America are Indians,” he said.
Zimbabwe has proven that it has abundant lithium resources. As an important mineral resource, lithium mining is attracting more and more investors, which will change the development prospects of Zimbabwe’s mining industry.
He, however, noted that investors are willing to come and invest in the country but they have their concerns including the power supply for the processing plants.
“The only challenge we are likely to have if we are to manufacture batteries in Zimbabwe is that the plant needs a consistent supply of energy.
“The plant cannot afford to have any power cuts during production, so they were ( investors) raising such kind of concerns that if you want us to come and establish a lithium battery plant in Zimbabwe we will need a guarantee of continuous power supply.
“So the opportunities are vast and if this opportunity can be used wisely we will see a number of Zimbabweans becoming millionaires.
“As of now, we are still doing some preparations in terms of licensing and getting the equipment into Zimbabwe but all is on course,” he said.
Under the background of the active development of electric vehicles and electric energy in the world, lithium ore is becoming an indispensable raw material for industry and it is becoming a hot mineral resource.
The surge in global demand for electric vehicles and batteries has promoted a rise in the demand for minerals such as copper, lithium, graphite, and Cobalt.
Meanwhile, Lonosphere investments recently began lithium concentrates production at its factory in Harare, Bluffhill, with the Managing Director Nyasha Chidoh saying the company is planning to double its annual output to 70 000 tonnes of lithium from the current 36 000.
The move will then place the company among the country’s top 4 producers.
“Lithium is found in a stone called pegmatite. Pegmatite is a whitish stone. The pegmatite for lithium is called lithium cassiterite tantalite (LCT) pegmatite. These are minerals found in the same place in one stone called pegmatite.
“When we say the Chinese are taking everything, even right now they only declare for lithium and the other two minerals are not being spoken about and they also have a serious market. If you look at cassiterite, if it’s still ore it’s called cassiterite but if it has been concentrated it’s called tin.
“Tin is used to make capacitors and soldering irons. As you are working on battery storage, remember the battery will generate a lot of heat the only thing that sustains the heat is a capacitor made from tin.
“Tantalite is used to make motherboards, laptops, phones, phone screens, and batteries contain tantalite because it transmits electricity.
“A capacitor will be on the motherboard of tantalite and the storage will be lithium, so as you can see there are vast opportunities from lithium mining, and small-scale miners should venture into it,” he said.
Chidoh applauded the move by the government to ban the export of raw lithium saying this will increase the price of the mineral once processed in the country.
“When the government said let’s ban the export of lithium ores, it was a very good move because if you concentrate it you are able to separate those three (minerals) locally in Zimbabwe. The ban on lithium ore is actually very good,” he said.
Talent Kapisa, a lithium miner in Bikita said the government should capacitate small-scale miners in the value addition and beneficiation processes for them to be successful.
“Zimbabwean youths should venture into lithium mining because it’s proving to be a lucrative business. We are going to see hundreds of youths becoming millionaires within a short space of time.
“However, we are facing challenges with our investors, especially the Chinese, who are taking advantage of us as small-scale miners.
“They used to buy our raw lithium at cheaper prices then export for higher prices which was not fair for us hence the ban of raw lithium by the government is a very good move.
” If the government then supports us as small-scale miners, surely we will contribute towards the 2030 vision whereby we will be having our own industries in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Zimbabwe has prohibited the export of raw lithium from its mines so it can cash in on value addition and stop losing billions of dollars in mineral proceeds to foreign companies.
The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development on Dec. 20 published a circular under the Base Minerals Export Control Act that seeks to “ensure that the vision of the president to see the country becoming an upper-middle income economy has been realized.”