Zimbabwe: Chinese Subsidiary Commissions $300m Lithium Processing Plant.


A subsidiary of a Chinese mining company, Zhejiang Huayoua Cobalt commissioned a lithium processing facility in Zimbabwe on Wednesday to maintain its position as one of the leading manufacturers of battery materials in the world. 

Zimbabwe has the largest lithium reserves in Africa, and despite China’s dominance, it has recently attracted investors in battery minerals from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Batteries for electric vehicles typically contain lithium. Zimbabwe last year outlawed the export of unprocessed lithium ore to capitalize on demand. By doing so, it joined nations like Indonesia and Chile that demand local investment in processing and refining before miners can export in an effort to optimize the value of their lithium, cobalt, and nickel reserves.

Zimbabwean president, Huayou Vice president and chairman of the Zimbabwe unit, and Deputy General Manager of Huayou’s Zimbabwe unit were present at the official launching of the sprawling plant in Goromonzi, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

According to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the plant opened by Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt subsidiary Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe has the ability to convert 4.5 million metric tons of hard rock lithium into concentrate for export each year.

Huayou Vice President and Chairman of the Zimbabwe unit, George Fang disclosed while giving his speech that the plant took nine months to construct and started exporting concentrates in April after the facility went into trial production. He noted that an export of 30,000 metric tons has been made, equating to $40 million in revenue generation. 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa who officiated at the opening stated that the southern African country hopes its enormous hard rock lithium resources will help revive its striving economy. “Lithium is a mineral of the present and the future. It is beneficial and will position our country in the global lithium value chain,” he added.

The government of Zimbabwe wants the nation’s lithium mines to process battery-grade lithium in addition to lithium concentrates. Huayou’s Zimbabwe division’s deputy general manager, Trevor Barnard, stated that the company was doing feasibility studies on further processing.

Mr. Barnard said, “We are not at the battery stage yet, it will take a regional approach from quite a few mines coming together to do beneficiation (processing)”.

Over the last two years, more than $1 billion has been spent by Chinese companies, including Huayou, Sinomine Resource Group, Chengxin Lithium Group, Yahua Group, and Canmax Technologies, to acquire and develop lithium mines in Zimbabwe.

Despite a delay brought on by a plant malfunction, London-listed Premier African Minerals has stated it will begin manufacturing lithium concentrates from its Zulu mine in southern Zimbabwe this year.


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