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Zimbabwe must lead the lithium rEVolution in Africa

By Features Reporter – Wednesday 21 October 2020

ANALYSIS (Mining Index) – WITH total worldwide lithium (Li) reserves estimated at 17,000,000 MT, Zimbabwe can potentially account for 20 percent of global lithium if all its known lithium resources are fully exploited.

The country’s Li deposits are second to none in Africa, being Africa’s top lithium producer, with reserves estimated at 230,000 MT.

Zimbabwe is a top 10 of lithium producer globally but currently produces only a fraction of the worldwide total.

FY2018, Zimbabwe and Namibia were among the top 10 lithium producing countries globally.

In the same year, Zimbabwe was ranked 5th among the biggest lithium-producing countries around the world after Australia, Chile, China and Argentina respectively.

Demand for lithium is expected to grow due to its significant role in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs).

Battery metals are taking centre stage on the global economy but it seems Africa is nowhere in the picture despite having the resources.

It is estimated that as at October 2020, there approximately 171 Lithium-ion Battery Megafactories globally but sadly, Africa is absent in the global battery production race, and none of the battery manufacturing plants have been established in Africa.

China currently sits firmly in the driving seat of Li-ion battery manufacturing, comprising 128 lithium-ion factories representing 80 percent of global manufacturing capacity.

The United States (US) has 9 lithium-ion factories, 15 are in the European Union (EU) while Africa has zero.

Could Zimbabwe lead Africa into the lithium rEVolution?

Li deposits in Zimbabwe include Bikita Mine, Arcadia Lithium Project, the Zulu project, the Lutope Lithium in Hwange, and Kamativi Mine. Some lithium deposits have also been identified in Mberengwa, Mutoko, Insiza, Matobo, Mazoe, Harare and Mutare.

With a 15 year mine life that increases its exposure to the long term EV demand, Prospect Resources’ Arcadia Lithium Project in Zimbabwe has been ranked the 7th largest global hard rock lithium asset with a target annual production of 100,000t of premium priced ultra-low iron petalite.

Located in southern part of the country in Masvingo Province, Bikita Minerals is currently the only lithium producer, believed to hold one of the world’s largest-known lithium deposits at over 11 million tonnes. It is also considered as the largest Petalite deposit in the world.

Mirrorplex Private Limited’s lithium project in Bindura is another great potential for Zimbabwe.

Located 80km from Bulawayo, owned by Premier African Minerals is the Zulu project, whose mineral resource estimate contains 526,000 tonnes of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE). Initial tests indicated a commercial grade, high quality spodumene and petalite deposits.

The Kamativi lithium tailings project at the old Kamativi mine that was previously mined for tin holds lithium which has never been recovered and now sits in the tailings dumps as spodumene.

Here is the list of the top 9 lithium reserves by country;

  1. Chile – 8,600,000 MT
  2. Australia – 2,800,000 MT
  3. Argentina – 1,700,000 MT
  4. China – 1,000,000 MT
  5. United States — 630,000 MT
  6. Canada — 370,000 MT
  7. Zimbabwe — 230,000 MT
  8. Brazil — 95,000 MT
  9. Portugal — 60,000 MT

Below are the top eight countries that produced the most lithium FY2019;

  1. Australia – 42,000 MT
  2. Chile-  18,000 MT
  3. China – 7,500 MT
  4. Argentina – 6,400 MT
  5. Zimbabwe – 1,600 MT
  6. Portugal – 1,200 MT
  7. Brazil – 300 MT
  8. United States – Mine production: unknown.  ENDS//

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