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Cabinet approves lithium ore policy

CABINET has approved the lithium ore policy as a way of fostering the country’s beneficiation capacity and maximising earnings from the strategic mineral.

Speaking during a post-Cabinet briefing on Wednesday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said a statutory instrument (SI) would be issued to give legal effect to the policy.

The SI will highlight that any individual or entity owning a lithium concession can mine lithium ores for either processing at its own approved processing plant (APP), or for sale to those with APPs locally.

Mutsvangwa also indicated that any individual and/or entity wishing to process lithium ores would be required to construct an APP locally.

Movement permits for lithium ores will only be issued where such ores are destined for a local APP.

“Lithium ores can only be stored at the mining site where such ores were mined, or at an approved local processing plant; an entity will require a lithium ore purchase licence to buy ores from miners. A local approved processing plant will be a condition for obtaining the lithium ore purchase licence,” Mutsvangwa said.

All players in the lithium sector, whether miners or holders of APPs, shall submit a summary of monthly reconciliations of ore movements to the Mines ministry.

For any material to qualify as a concentrate for approval for export, it shall meet the minimum set technical specifications and the minimum selling price as set by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe on a regular basis.

Government declared that lithium-bearing ores could only be exported with a formal authorisation from the Mines and Mining Development minister on December 20, 2022.

The clause permitted free movement of rocks intended for international assay of lithium ore, the market worth of which would have been established by reference to a credible metals exchange.

Exporting raw lithium is prohibited in order to promote investment in regional processing plants.

Zimbabwe is one of two emerging lithium producers on the global market.

Fitch Solutions, an American financial services company, in September 2022, predicted that output would double between 2022 and 2031.

Due to the mineral’s importance as a crucial component in EV batteries at a time when EV sales throughout the world are surging, interest in lithium has increased.

Leading lithium miners in Zimbabwe are Chinese firms Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Resource Group, and Chengxin Lithium Group, whose combined investment is over US$600 million.

According to statistics, Zimbabwe produced 1 200 tonnes of lithium in 2021, making it the world’s sixth-largest miner after Brazil, which produced 1 900 tonnes.

The other biggest producers are Argentina (6 200 tonnes), China (14 000 tonnes), Chile (26 000 tonnes), and Australia (55 000 tonnes). – (Newsday)

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