Munyaradzi Musiiwa: Midlands Correspondent
LITHIUM is set to transform the country’s economy following a fresh scramble for the mineral by foreign companies after new deposits were discovered around Harare, Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister, Engineer Fred Moyo has said. In an interview in Mberengwa South last week, Eng Moyo said there were new deposits of lithium in areas surrounding Harare and foreign companies have been jostling for mining licences.Eng Moyo said Government was shifting focus to lithium following an increased demand for the mineral worldwide adding that this could be a breakthrough for Zimbabwe.
“There is a scramble for lithium. Right now we have a lot of lithium potential around Harare.
“If you check and investigate what is happening, foreign companies are scrambling for lithium around Harare in the similar manner that European countries scrambled for Africa. The world is going to be run on the basis of batteries. We are hoping that that sector will take off. Zimbabwe has vast deposits of lithium.”
The deputy minister’s concerns come amid calls by industry experts that Zimbabwe should embark on an exploration programme to unearth more lithium reserves to build a strong supply base for the proposed lithium beneficiation and value addition plant.
Lithium mining expert Grant Hudson who is also managing director for Bikita Minerals noted that setting up a lithium beneficiation plant is a noble idea that must be pushed if certain fundamentals are met.
“The proposal to set up a beneficiation plant by Government is a noble idea considering the importance of the lithium group minerals to the economic growth of any country. However, I believe we do not have enough deposits for a beneficiation plant at the moment.
“We don’t have enough spodumene, the deposits are too small therefore extensive exploration work must be undertaken to make sure we discover more deposits before we can think of setting up a beneficiation plant,” said Mr Hudson.
Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer of lithium after Australia, Chile, Argentina and China and has the opportunity to increase its share of the growing market. Other major producers are Brazil, Portugal and the United States.
Kamativi tin Mine has three very big resources, Bikita Minerals are also on an expansion drive. We also have some lithium deposits in Mberengwa, Mutoko and round Harare. Lithium has a very big potential because it is the future,” he said.
Eng Moyo said Government was pinning its hopes on the revival of Kamativi Tin Mine and the expansion of Bikita Minerals as these are some of the biggest lithium mines in the country that have vast deposits.
He said Government will speed up the finalisation of Kamativi deal which will see the Matabeleland North based mine resuming production after 21 years.
“At Kamativi we had sub agreements that we are scrutinizing. The main agreement has been sealed. We are now looking at the technical agreement, the funding agreement, marketing agreement and many other issues . . . because if you carelessly look at those the main agreement might not work.
So that is what the board is looking at. We hope that it won’t be too long,” said Eng Moyo.
Lithium is used mainly as a component of rechargeable Li-ion batteries and as a treatment for several types of mental disorders.