Zimbabwe Pushes for More Local Value Addition for Lithium

In the 2024 National Budget, Zimbabwe Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube clarified that although concentration of lithium ore is step in the right direction, it is far from the final product which is battery-grade lithium. Zimbabwe wants more local beneficiation in order for its local economy to reap more benefits from the Lithium boom as the world speeds up the #GreenTransition towards Electric Vehicles (#EV).

In 2022, the Government of Zimbabwe promulgated new rules and regulations to promote Local Value Addition (#LVA). Thus, the export of unprocessed raw lithium ore was banned. Miners were thus encouraged to carry out some processing and move up to ore concentrates. A 5% export tax was levied on the concentrates with the indication that more LVA is expected.

Eventually, Zimbabwe and the Southern Africa region aspires to build its own EV ecosystem in order to output finished Electric Vehicles.

“Any lithium value addition process that does not result in the production of lithium carbonate is not regarded as beneficiation. Lithium producing companies should submit their beneficiation plans no later than 31 March 2024.”

Zimbabwe Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube

In line with the above plan, no new Lithium mining license will be issued without a clear beneficiation plan. Having one of the largest reserves of Lithium in the world, Zimbabwe has attracted billions in FDI from mostly Chinese companies in recent years.

According to a study undertaken by CRU, Zimbabwe production of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE) of Lithium Ore is expected to rise to 11% of the global share by 2025. Lithium naturally occurs mainly as spodumene and petalite in Zimbabwe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa Visits Bikita Mine

Recently, Sinomine has commissioned a USD 300 million spodumene concentrator at its Bikita mine. In response to the new regulations, tt announced plans to start feasibility studies on producing battery-grade lithium.

Another Chinese company Huayou also built a concentration plant at its Arcadia mine. However, a company spokesperson declared that the company is contemplating the production of lithium sulphate ‘once the economic conditions are right.’ Huayou cited the unavailability of sulphuric acid and insufficient renewable energy to undertake green manufacturing of lithium sulphate.

Zimbabwe is keen to cash in on the #Lithium boom but some miners are dragging their feet. With the current export of Lithium ore concentrates, Zimbabwe is only getting peanuts on what is potentially a wealth generating resource. It is obvious that one would prefer the peanut butter rather than just raw peanuts.