Lithium, battery exports rake in US$209m Mines and Mining Development Minister Zhemu Soda (right) is taken on a tour of the Fire Dust Control Africa stand at this year’s Mine Entra edition at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre in Bulawayo yesterday. - Picture: Eliah Saushoma

Bulawayo Bureau

THE Lithium and Battery Minerals sector has generated US$209 million in export receipts in the first nine months of the year and has vast potential to power the country’s future through exploitation of new opportunities, Mines and Mining Development Minister, Zhemu Soda, said yesterday.

Zimbabwe is among Africa’s largest lithium deposits destinations and ranked fifth globally, which positions the country for an economic boom from the global drive towards a shift to battery-powered machines.

Over the years, lithium has become a much sought-after mineral across the world as the automotive industry is shifting towards electric cars that among other valuables use lithium-ion batteries.

In his keynote address at the inaugural Lithium and Battery Minerals Conference held on the sidelines of Mine Entra 2023 Exhibition in Bulawayo, Minister Soda said the conference came at a time when the demand for lithium has risen sharply across the globe.

He said the rise in demand for lithium and battery minerals is due to the growth of green energy industries that are involved in the manufacture of electric motor vehicles and energy storage devices among others.

Lithium is a key component of electric vehicle batteries, and demand for lithium is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

Noting how exports of lithium have increased significantly from 2018 up to 2022, Minister Soda challenged mining players to aggressively tap into the growing global demand for value-added resources to spur the country’s economic growth.

“The respective export revenue generated from the export of lithium during these years grew from US$1,8 million in 2018 to US$70 million in 2022. By September, 2023 a total of US$209 million had been realised from lithium exports, which is a very impressive improvement,”  said Minister Soda.

He said lithium conference, which ran under the theme: “Powering Zimbabwe’s Future: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Development in the Lithium and Battery Mineral Industry”, came at a time when the mining industry in Zimbabwe expects to boost contribution to the country’s attainment of Vision 2030’s goal of becoming an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

Lithium and battery minerals such as tantalum, graphite, nickel, manganese, and tin are expected to contribute hugely to the mining sector’s expansion, said Minister Soda.Zimbabwe stands a chance to reap huge dividends from lithium exploitation given its abundant lithium deposits.

“The demand for materials used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries has increased dramatically. Due to this demand, new investors, both local and foreign, have entered the sector to mine, process, and export lithium and battery minerals from Zimbabwe,” said the minister.

“Lithium and battery minerals have the potential of powering Zimbabwe’s future through exploitation of all the available opportunities of the sector.

He said exploration of vast mineral resources would result in increased revenue generation, adding that the country could boost its revenue generation by investing in the exploration and discovery of new battery mineral deposits that can be extracted and sold to global markets.

“Investors wishing to invest in highly promising companies are often attracted to mineral exploration projects. Successful exploration of our mineral resources, therefore, leads to long-term investments by foreign companies as exemplified by the recent commissioning of the Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe and Sabi Starr Lithium mines and processing plants,” said Minister Soda.

With more foreign companies injecting millions of dollars to exploit lithium, he said Zimbabwean communities must benefit more from sustainable benefits of mineral exploration such as employment creation, economic diversification, and technology transfer.

“In the already existing brownfield projects mines require retooling and new technology to increase the efficiency and productivity.

“Also, there is an opportunity in the resuscitation of closed mines and expansion of the operations of existing mines,” said Minister Soda.

He said the Government has put in place policies to regulate the mining of lithium and other battery minerals for the benefit of the country.

“Firstly, a ban on the export of raw base mineral ores that include lithium and other base minerals was introduced to stop their rampant exportation in raw form,” he said.

“The move by the Government was aimed at halting these exports to ensure more value is realised from the vast lithium and battery mineral reserves discovered so far in the country.”

Added to that, Statutory Instrument 57 of 2023 was gazetted to support lithium mining and processing.

The minister said the ban and introduction of the Lithium Ore Policy presented an opportunity for the mining industry to invest in value addition and beneficiation.

Value addition and beneficiation of raw ores provide numerous advantages for the country, said Minister Soda. These include generating more employment, raising revenue, reducing the trade imbalance, and most crucially, raising Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product level.

All of these advantages are consistent with National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1) and Vision 2030 objectives.

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