Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
LITHIUM mining firm Prospect Resources has discovered possible large deposits at its Arcadia Mine of caesium, a much sought after chemical element or metal used mainly in high temperature or high pressure oil and gas drilling.
Prospect is an Australia listed firm involved in exploration and mining of lithium, used to make electric vehicle batteries and in the ceramics industry. The company is developing the Arcadia Lithium project near Harare.
Demand for lithium is anticipated to grow exponentially as electric vehicles become more common and affordable, driving growth in global demand, as is the case at the moment with internal combustion engines (ICE).
While lithium is one of the major minerals expected to drive Government’s vision of building a US$12 billion industry by 2023, caesium could be another significant export earner for Prospect and Zimbabwe.
The identified chemical element occurs within pollucite, a high value and rare caesium bearing mineral that forms in extremely differentiated Lithium-Caesium-Tantalum (“LCT”) molten rock systems.
“Global supply is very constrained. The primary use of caesium is in caesium formate brine used in high temperature/high pressure oil and gas drilling,” Prospect said in a statement on the Australia Stock Exchange (ASX).
Prospect said the concentrations were discovered on a block of land consisting three of its claims known as Shabaash, covering 50 hectares of open bushland. The Shabaash site is located 3 kilometres west of the planned Arcadia Pit.
As part of its satellite exploration and ground sterilisation programme, 14 000 soil samples were collected from the area surrounding Arcadia in 2017 and 2018. Soil samples were collected every 20 or 100 metre spaced lines, surveyed north-south, but due to time constraints, assayed only for lithium.
A number of lithium anomalies were defined, which were subsequently drilled in 2017-2018. All were subsequently drilled and proved to hold the lithium mineral, albeit in some case too thin and low grade to be economic.
The anomaly at one of the drilled sites, in contrast, was successful and is now part of the reserves, and is the epicentre of the planned Northeast satellite pit.
In December 2019, a small number (61) of stored sample were selected for further examination for caesium qualities. These were selected from samples which had previously returned lithium anomalies.
Prospect said although now statements as to the dimension and grade quality of the chemical have been produced, just the conformation of existence of pollucite, which bears caesium, was very encouraging.
The ASX listed firm is developing a multimillion dollar lithium mine at Arcadia, 38 kilometres east of Harare, which will earn Zimbabwe more than US$3,5 billion over its mine line, estimated at about 15 years.
Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer of lithium, with only a single producing mine in Bikita Minerals, but could move higher the rankings once four other new developing projects, including Arcadia, come on stream.
Because of its strategic importance, the Arcadia lithium project has already been accorded Special Economic Zone Status (SEZ), rendering it available to a number of special incentives that will catalyse its progress.
Existing global supply can only meet growing demand up to 2021 and for producers to meet the demand from the market in 2022; development of additional capacity would need to commence 2019.
As such, without further investment in new lithium extraction projects, there will be a supply shortage by 2022, when demand for electric cars will accelerate as they reach cost parity with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
Zimbabwe’s lithium deposits are second to none in Africa, and proven deposits are located in Bikita, Goromonzi, and Kamativi.