New lithium project will lift econ­omy

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

AM now Mr Ground­break­ing,” Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa joked on July 25 this year while ad­dress­ing thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered to wit­ness the com­mis­sion­ing of the African Chrome Fields’ alu­minother­mic chrome pro­cess­ing plant owned by the Moti Group near Kwekwe.

“But you re­alise that each in­ci­dent where we are com­mis­sion­ing or do­ing ground­break­ing, that is cre­ation of em­ploy­ment, that is putting food on the ta­bles of our fam­i­lies. This is the new Zim­babwe we want. We shall con­tinue to grow and grow.”

Since he as­sumed of­fice in Novem­ber last year, Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa has com­mis­sioned dozens of multi-bil­lion dol­lar projects that have cre­ated tens of thou­sands of jobs. Many of the projects have ac­tu­ally taken off the ground, while oth­ers are still in their ear­lier stages.

He has com­mis­sioned the Hwange 7 and 8 ther­mal projects, the re-open­ing of Sha­ban­ieMashaba Mine with a joint ca­pac­ity of di­rectly em­ploy­ing 9 000 peo­ple, and re­cently he also re-opened Eureka Gold Mine in Gu­ruve.

In July he of­fi­ci­ated at the ground­break­ing cer­e­mony of the $153 mil­lion ex­pan­sion of Robert Gabriel Mu­gabe In­ter­na­tional Air­port and of­fi­cially launched the $4,2 bil­lion Karo Re­sources con­sol­i­dated plat­inum project in Mhon­doro-Mubaira, a mas­sive project that is set to em­ploy a com­bined 90 000 peo­ple di­rectly and in­di­rectly at its peak in a few years’ time.

Some three weeks ago, an­other Aus­tralian min­ing firm, In­vic­tus En­ergy an­nounced that it will scale up work that should re­sult in it in­vest­ing $20 mil­lion drilling for nat­u­ral gas in Muzara­bani, Mashona­land Cen­tral.

Mr Ground­break­ing was back to his ways on Wed­nes­day, break­ing the ground for the de­vel­op­ment of Ar­ca­dia Lithium Mine in Goromonzi, Mashona­land East. Prospect Re­sources, an Aus­tralian com­pany, will pour $165 mil­lion in the first phase of mine de­vel­op­ment. This will create 700 jobs and will see in­fra­struc­ture like roads, houses and schools be­ing built.

Phase one of the Ar­ca­dia lithium project, is ex­pected to earn Zim­babwe $3 bil­lion over a 12-year life of mine and go into full pro­duc­tion in the next 12 to 14 months.

Zim­babwe has a long his­tory of lithium min­ing. Bikita Min­er­als, the coun­try’s sole lithium mine, has been op­er­at­ing for six decades. It is not a large op­er­a­tion re­ally, per­haps less well known in a coun­try whose min­ing in­dus­try is dom­i­nated by gold, plat­inum, coal, di­a­mond and iron.

How­ever, lithium has gained more global ap­peal in re­cent years par­tic­u­larly in the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor. The min­eral is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent in the man­u­fac­ture of long life bat­ter­ies that auto mak­ers want for the ve­hi­cles.

The grow­ing in­ter­est has seen more ex­plo­ration work across the coun­try, hence the in­vest­ment we are see­ing at Ar­ca­dia Mine. A lot of ex­plo­ration work has been done at Ka­ma­tivi Mine. There is also Pre­mier African Min­er­als’ Zulu Lithium and Tan­talum Project near Bu­l­awayo. More lithium de­posits are known to ex­ist in Mberengwa, Mu­toko and other ar­eas around Harare.

Although the coun­try has just one mine, it ranks as the fifth big­gest lithium pro­ducer in the world af­ter Aus­tralia, Chile, Ar­gentina and China. As such, Zim­babwe is Africa’s big­gest lithium pro­ducer. Ac­cord­ing to Lithium To­day, Zim­babwe is the rich­est coun­try in Africa in terms of lithium de­posits. The global rank­ing should there­fore im­prove in the next 12 to 14 months as Ar­ca­dia comes on stream.

The launch of the Ar­ca­dia lithium project is yet an­other en­dorse­ment of the in­vestor-friendly eco­nomic con­di­tions that Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has cre­ated over the past 12 months. He is reach­ing out to in­vestors that were shun­ning our coun­try be­fore Novem­ber 2017. The Gov­ern­ment has re­laxed the in­di­geni­sa­tion law that scared away in­vest­ment in the ex­trac­tive in­dus­try. Pro­cess­ing of in­vest­ment pro­pos­als is now be­ing done at a faster pace and re­quire­ments are be­ing sim­pli­fied.

The 700 jobs that have been cre­ated at Ar­ca­dia add on to the 800 000 that the Na­tional So­cial Se­cu­rity Au­thor­ity an­nounced had been cre­ated since Jan­uary. More will be cre­ated as more in­vest­ment pro­pos­als are con­cre­tised.

It is grat­i­fy­ing that high qual­ity in­vest­ment is flow­ing into the coun­try. This trend is seen con­tin­u­ing, even in­ten­si­fy­ing as time goes on. Mea­sures to fur­ther im­prove the in­vest­ment cli­mate are on­go­ing, which is a big plus. In ad­di­tion to that, Zim­babwe is an ir­re­sistible place to do busi­ness be­cause of the ex­is­tence of a myr­iad of min­er­als, some of which only ex­ist here in world-class abun­dance. Lithium is one min­eral that is abound­ing in the coun­try and should help us dom­i­nate the global trade in it. Plat­inum re­serves are al­ready known to be world­class as well, only bet­tered by South Africa’s. Gold de­posits are ef­fec­tively ev­ery­where. The Muzara­bani hy­dro­car­bon prospect is held as the big­gest un­drilled on­shore re­source in Africa. Di­a­monds are in abun­dance in Man­i­ca­land, Masvingo, Mata­bele­land South and Mid­lands.

But Zim­babwe’s wealth is not just about min­er­als. Mas­sive op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist in man­u­fac­tur­ing as well. There is also a strong skills base that for now is not fully ex­ploited as a re­sult of the down­turn in the econ­omy.

The chal­leng­ing part, how­ever, is that the projects that are com­ing up will take some time to be­gin to roll for the promised eco­nomic ben­e­fits to be felt across the econ­omy. We ac­knowl­edge the el­e­ment of im­pa­tience that is among some of us, but a few months from now Zim­babwe will be a new coun­try with lots of job op­por­tu­ni­ties, im­proved av­er­age house­hold in­comes, bet­ter stan­dards of liv­ing and work­ing in­fra­struc­ture. The wait can be tax­ing a lit­tle bit, but our peo­ple will soon re­alise it was worth it.

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