Zim­babwe lithium ex­cites but projects face fund­ing hur­dle

Zambian Business Times - - MINING -

Zim­babwe has a small win­dow of up to 24 months to start pro­duc­ing bat­tery grade lithium and ride the wave of high prices, min­ers said on Thurs­day, but the coun­try's high po­lit­i­cal risk made fi­nanc­ing projects dif­fi­cult.

Since the fall of Robert Mu­gabe af­ter a de facto mil­i­tary coup last Novem­ber, new Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa has been try­ing to shore up for­eign in­vestor in­ter­est in a coun­try rich in min­eral re­sources but starved of cap­i­tal.

Zim­babwe, which holds some of the big­gest lithium de­posits in the world, has one lithium pro­ducer. Bikita Min­er­als pro­duces lithium used in ce­ram­ics and glass but plans to pro­duce bat­tery grade lithium once it com­pletes ex­plo­ration.

Three other min­ers ex­pect to start pro­duc­tion of lithium con­cen­trates from the end of 2018 and next year.

Grant Hud­son, Bikita's man­ag­ing di­rec­tor said Zim­babwe should take ad­van­tage of the high de­mand as well as buy­ers who are seek­ing to di­ver­sify sup­plies away from South Amer­ica and Aus­tralia, the big­gest pro­duc­ers.

"The time is now. Peo­ple want re­sources now, peo­ple are look­ing to di­ver­sify sup­ply chains away from these places (South Amer­ica and Aus­tralia)," Hud­son said dur­ing a meet­ing with min­ing ex­ec­u­tives in the re­sort town of Vic­to­ria Falls.

"There is a lot of in­ter­est and Zim­babwe has to ride that wave. We don't have time to sit here for two or three years and work out what we need to do. We need to be chas­ing the in­vestor money right now."

George Roach, chief ex­ec­u­tive at Premier African Min­er­als, which owns Zulu Lithium in west­ern Zim­babwe said it would cost at least $238-mil­lion to set up a mine and lithium car­bon­ate plant, money that could only be raised off­shore.

The project is still at ex­plo­ration stage.

Ar­ca­dia Lithium Project, which is owned by Aus­tralian listed Prospect Re­sources ex­pects to start pro­duc­ing lithium con­cen­trates in 2019, hit­ting an­nual pro­duc­tion of 240 000 t at full ca­pac­ity, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Harry Greaves said.

"It is a key, key prob­lem for us rais­ing cap­i­tal mov­ing for­ward par­tic­u­larly into the lithium car­bon­ate plant. So we do need to re­solve that if ever we are go­ing to get true value," Greaves said at the same meet­ing.

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