Value addition and beneficiation of minerals has moved a gear up, with the Government directing all companies mining lithium to submit plans to move away from producing concentrates to lithium carbonates, the final product manufacturers need, by March 31 next year.
As the end product in the lithium processing system, carbonates can be used to manufacture various items, including lithium-ion batteries.
This means Zimbabwe will now be exporting a high value product on demand on the international market, thereby bringing in more foreign currency and creating more employment opportunities for locals in the lithium value chain.
The move shows Government is walking the talk in its mission to ensure the country does not sell its minerals cheap in their raw form, but value add and beneficiate them for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.
The directive is contained in next year’s proposed national budget presented to Parliament by Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube on Thursday.
Prof Ncube said players in the lithium mining sector should submit their plans to move to exporting carbonates by March 31.
“With a significant resource, 37 endowment of Platinum Group of Metals, gold, lithium and diamonds, economic transformation and development can be anchored on beneficiation,” he said.
“Within this context, any lithium value addition process that does not result in the production of lithium carbonate is not regarded as beneficiation, hence, is liable to an export tax.
“Lithium producing companies should submit their beneficiation plans no later than 31 March 2024. Furthermore, no licences shall be granted to a prospective lithium company without approval of a beneficiation plan.”
While commissioning Bikita Minerals’ Spodumene and Palatine Plants on Wednesday, which will add value to lithium ore, President Mnangagwa said gone were the days when the country used to export its minerals in their raw form, thus losing huge revenues to other countries.
He charged Zimbabweans to closely keep an eye on mining activities as different minerals can be acquired from one mining activity.
Already, players in other mining sectors have begun to beneficiate their minerals, with the net effect of increasing the country’s revenue collection base from the key sector that contributes around 13 percent to the GDP and is expected to be a US$12 billion economy by year-end.
Bikita Minerals, which is one of the major players in the lithium industry that is pivotal to transiting into green energy, constructed a spodumene plant that has a capacity to produce 300 000 tonnes of chemical grade spodumene concentrate per annum, which will be ready for export in line with Government’s requirements.
Other lithium mining companies like Prospect Lithium Mine in Goromonzi, Sabi Star Lithium Mine in Buhera and Zulu Lithium Mine in Fort Rixon have constructed similar processing plants.
The output from the plants are expected to not only create more direct and indirect jobs, but result in increased revenue to the fiscus, while contributing to improved infrastructure and social services.
At Bikita Minerals, President Mnangagwa said his Government was determined to see its citizenry deriving maximum benefits from mining activities, hence its directive to mining companies to shape up or ship out.
“I challenge all players in business, industry, and commerce in general, and the mining sector in particular, to undertake their operations with the highest ethical standards, professionalism, honesty, and integrity,” he said.
“Corruption of any kind will never be condoned by my Government and law will apply without fear or favour.
“The overarching need to grow ‘the bottom line’ must never be at the expense of the laws of the country or the well-being of our people who must see transformative changes to their quality of life as a result of our country’s rich and numerous resources. Let us, therefore, always seek to realize sustainable prosperity that benefits all Zimbabweans.”
Thus the milestone achieved by Bikitia Minerals is in sync with the Government thrust of minerals beneficiation and value addition for maximum benefits, but even so, the President said ultimately the country should be a source market for finished lithium products, to pivot it as a major player in the transition to green energy anchored on lithium.
“Zimbabwe, we equally remain alive to our broader strategic responsibility to supply vital resources to a vast number of global industries, for shared prosperity,” he said.
“We will, therefore, continue to exercise good stewardship over the many natural resources in our country, by ensuring that stakeholders in the sector practice responsible mining that guarantees environmental sustainability.
“To date, the Responsible Mining Initiative launched by my administration has prioritised environmental matters and scaled up the protection of our natural ecosystems and resources for both present and future generations.
“The exercise has also helped to highlight challenges and proffer solutions for the overall improvement of our mining sector.”
The President said through the whole of Government and society approach, his administration was “minimising environmental harm and biodiversity while maximising benefits for both investors and the generality of the people of Zimbabwe”.
In spite of the commendable milestones, players in the lithium sub-sector must remain on course to produce batteries and other clean energy related products and the completion of the US$13 billion Mapinga Mines to Energy Industrial Park will complete the puzzle.