George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
THE country’s sole lithium producer, Bikita Minerals, is targeting to produce over 80 000 tonnes of petalite this year and help Zimbabwe consolidate its position as an emerging key player on the global market.
The company has invested over $4 million in equipment.
Petalite is an ore that contains about 4,5 percent of lithium and last year, Bikita Minerals produced about 40 000 tonnes of petalite.
It is exported in its raw form as Zimbabwe does not have capacity to beneficiate petalite into lithium.
Bikita Minerals chief executive Mr Grant Hudson told the media during a tour of the mine on Tuesday that the firm had installed a new processing plant to boost petalite and tantalite output.
“We have so far spent about $4 million on the acquisition of new processing plants for both petalite and tantalite,” he said. “We are looking to double petalite production to 80 000 tonnes if all goes well this year.
“We have installed a new processing plant for tantalite as we intensify our efforts to boost production. I cannot disclose how much Bikita Minerals will make after the anticipated surge in output because this is a private company.’’
Mr Hudson said the company was carrying out an exploration of the spodumene resource at its Bikita mine.
Spodumene is an important ore of high-quality lithium and Bikita Minerals is doing exploratory work to establish whether or not the available resource at the mine can be mined commercially.
“These are very exciting times for Zimbabwe and the lithium industry and we are still carrying out exploration to establish whether it will be economically viable to mine the spodumene,” said Mr Hudson.
“We are just waiting to see what results we are going to get.’’
Mr Hudson said at the moment, lithium produced at Bikita Minerals was mainly used for ceramics and glass making.
There is scope to extend the use of lithium into batteries manufacturing.
Zimbabwe has been touted as a future major source of lithium, with the country expected to account for about 20 percent of the mineral’s supply on the world market in the near future.
Mr Hudson said Zimbabwe’s prospects in the lithium market were bright.
Bikita Minerals was opened in the1920s on an area initially known as Bikita Tinfields.
Following subsequent drilling in the 1950s, petalite was discovered, making the mine the first lithium producer in Zimbabwe.