Zim starts stockpiling lithium President Mnangagwa

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Reporter

Zimbabwe has to do more than ban export of lithium and other ores, insisting on processing locally before export, but now needs focused research and development towards transforming ores into domestic semi-and finished products, President Mnangagwa has said.

The country holds some of the world’s largest reserves of hard-rock lithium, a vital mineral in the production of clean energy technologies.

Lithium deposits have been identified in Mashonaland East, Masvingo, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces with more deposits likely to be discovered.

However, due to rampant illicit flow of the mineral, the Government last year imposed a ban on the export of unprocessed lithium.

Since October last year, all mining companies exploiting designated minerals were required to pay half of their royalties to the Government in actual processed minerals and the other half of royalties due to the Government continue to be paid in cash.

Writing in his column in The Sunday Mail yesterday, President Mnangagwa said the policy had contributed to curbing the leakages and allowed for the stockpiling of the mineral for current use and future generations.

“It is not enough to ban raw mineral ores; we must begin to apply ourselves towards building industrial processes and structures, which transform those ores into semi-finished to finished products here at home.

“My call to all Zimbabweans, both at home and abroad, is for us to develop a new consciousness which is oriented towards a new socio-economy in which transformational processes are domesticated to become resident in our country.

“We can no longer be happy to circumvent national markets we create for our minerals, in favour of foreign ones where we are duped and where value is lost or traded cheaply. We need a new nationalism which contests net national value loss through un-strategic exportation of our non-renewables,” he said.

“And much more. We need to set new sights on skills development and rapid technology uptake so we become useful players in the emerging value-driven socio-economy.”

The Government, on its part, would be ready to support and encourage, both through policy and facilities, any efforts aimed at advancing a value-chain driven socio-economy.

The President added that his Government would identify clusters of minerals which together underpinned any one value chain so that it rapidly takes off.

“The question we should be asking ourselves in respect of lithium is, what minerals, what capital, what industrial structures, what skills set and what strategic partnerships do we need to launch a new energy industry for a new global age in which Zimbabwe is a notable player? That is the national question and challenge,” said President Mnangagwa.

Lithium is a strategic mineral which holds the key to the global transition to clean energy with many countries already moving towards its use in anticipation of the move to electric vehicles.

This has increased demand for the mineral.

The President said the demand for electric vehicles coupled with limited sources of lithium ore globally was projected to create a demand-supply imbalance which inevitably favoured the few countries in the world with lithium deposits of which Zimbabwe is one.

“We must use all our finite mineral resources to build our capacity to transform and industrialise our economy. Only that way do we develop and modernise our people and society.

“We can never do so for as long as we see ourselves as suppliers of raw materials to other countries and continents, for their exclusive processing, so, in turn, they turn us into mere buyers and consumers of expensive goods made out of raw materials they will have secured from us for pittance.

“In the end, we lose finite resources; we lose value; we lose jobs and skills, simply because we have agreed to be frozen for endless time as producers and exporters of raw materials, including mineral ores! We have to break that colonially-derived legacy,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said the mining sector should create links with industry to trigger industrialisation, which he said could not happen as long as raw, unprocessed ores were being sent abroad.

“The time, too, has come to use our comparative advantage as sources of finite raw materials to cause global capital to relocate to where the resource exists, namely in our country and on our continent. That way, even skills we lost to the developed world will return home to complement those we build through our own efforts.

“A new political economy must begin to emerge, until we get to that critical stage where all processing and all value chains are domesticated in our country. This is the vision I have; indeed, the thinking behind recent measures we took in respect of mining,” said the President.

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