Taurai Mangudhla Senior Business Reporter
Bikita Minerals stands accused of prejudicing the country of tens of millions in potential revenue annually by exporting undeclared lithium to Asia and Europe. A report by lobbyist Farai Magawu titled “Investigating Illicit Financial Flows in Zimbabwe’s lithium sector”, said Bikita Minerals boasts of a world class lithium pegmatite resource and was once the largest producer of petalite and lepidolite in the world.
However, lithium is not listed among the products exported by Bikita Minerals, raising a strong possibility that the high value mineral is being exported illicitly as petaliote said the report.
Mr Magawu, a director at the Centre for Natural Resource Governance and the research study, used a combination of broad contextual; analysis, desktop study and a case study analysis of Bikita Minerals, where in-depth interview and observations were utilised.
Significant resource rents are then generated abroad, perhaps for the sole benefit of Bikita Minerals and countries with a thriving lithium market such as China. The report said the reluctance of Bikita Minerals to venture into value addition and beneficiation vis-à-vis the Zimbabwe government’s thrust on beneficiation, as enunciated in the Zim-Asset points to some underhand deals between the company and its clients who are deriving extreme financial benefits from the unprocessed products from Bikita Minerals. Bikita Minerals’ reports have also been questioned.
The report said the price at which Bikita Minerals claims to be selling its products is way below the market value of $180/tonne. This is highly unlikely given that Whaubochi Mine in Canada produces spodemene at $170/t , which is cited as the lowest lithium ore production cost. There has to be a more sensible argument as to why Bikita Minerals is allegedly selling its products at an uncompetitive price of $180/tonne.
The reports also said Bikita Minerals could be seriously under invoicing thereby prejudicing Zimra of taxes. The report said Government is out to take a firm stand against illicit financial flows if domestic resource mobilisation is to yield results.
Zimbabwe is ranked the sixth largest lithium producer in the world producing 23 000 tonnes in 2013. Zimbabwe produces 1 100t of lithium primarily from Bikita Minerals which sits on over 11 million tonnes of lithium-containing resources.