Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE has moved a step closer to lithium value addition, as enunciated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, following installation of a pilot lithium carbonate plant in Kwekwe by Australian-listed mining company, Prospect Resources.
According to a notice by Prospect Resources, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando, last week visited the firm where he witnessed first-hand the work the firm has so far done on installation of the lithium carbonate pilot plant.
The company said the lithium carbonate plant was the only one of its kind on the African continent.
Zimbabwe is believed to hold some of the world’s largest lithium deposits, but they have not been extensively exploited as it is currently the fifth largest producer in the world, all of which is being exported before beneficiation as called for by the President.
Australia, Argentina, Chile and China are currently the world’s only producers with output bigger than Zimbabwe’s.
Presenting the 2018 National Budget, Finance and Economic Planning Minister Mr Patrick Chinamasa introduced a five percent tax on exports of unprocessed lithium with effect from January 1, 2019 and the latest move by Prospect Resources is a clear response to Government’s call.
“Prospect Resources Ltd is pleased to announce that the Zimbabwean Minister for Mines and Mining Development, Winston Chitando, visited the company’s lithium carbonate pilot plant in Kwekwe, Zimbabwe to see first-hand the work that Prospect is doing to create battery grade (+99,5 percent) lithium carbonate,” said the firm in a statement released on Thursday.
“Prospect’s lithium carbonate pilot plant is the only such plant in Africa. Prospect is using this facility to provide sample products to potential and future customers around the world and to demonstrate Zimbabwe’s technical capability,” said Prospect Resources.
Information obtained by this publication shows that Prospect initially did laboratory tests to produce lithium carbonate. The installation of a pilot plant is a follow up to the tests and the company is planning to build a fully-fledged plant which will upgrade lithium concentrate into lithium carbonate.
The produced lithium carbonate will be ready as direct feed into the battery manufacturing process having observed from pilot runs the ability to produce a lithium carbonate above 99,5 percent purity.
The Sunday Mail Business however could not get a comment from Minister Chitando on his impression on the project.
Government under the leadership of President Mnangagwa has placed mining at the top of drivers expected to stimulate economic growth.
Current Government efforts could see lithium catching up with other high foreign currency earners among them gold and the platinum group of metals which account for the larger chunk of the country’ mineral earners.
In February Minister Chitando announced that Government had signed a deal with a foreign investor to exploit lithium deposits worth $1,4 billion in Matabeleland North.
Global demand for lithium has been on the up recently due to the increase in global electrical vehicle manufacturing, which uses lithium-powered batteries and forecasts has estimated the electrical vehicle market will be worth $100 billion in the next two years.