Bikita lithium mine in Zimbabwe will receive a mammoth $200 million investment after Chinese mining firm, Sinomine Resource Group, announced it plans to construct a complex capable of producing millions of tons of lithium ore per annum.
Realising the strategic importance of the element in the electric vehicle (EV) industry, Zimbabwean officials are making moves to transform the African nation into an EV hub.
The Bikita mine, situated in a hilly region in Masvingo, has been open for more than 70 years and is home to the world’s largest privately-owned lithium reserves.
The mine predominantly produces petalite, a lithium mineral of various hues that is used in the decorative and culinary ceramic industry. Suitably attractive specimens are also sought after by gemstone collectors.
After the Shenzhen-listed Sinomine bought a controlling stake in the mine in 2018 for around $180 million, aims shifted towards mining another lithium mineral, spodumene, a crucial component in the EV battery manufacturing process.
Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, said the $200 million investment would fund the development and construction of new production lines better suited to spodumene mining, while expanding and improving existing infrastructure.
The investment positioned his country to become a prominent figure in the battery mineral supply chain while also consolidating the sub-Saharan African nation’s status as a minerally diverse marketplace, Mnangagwa added.
Chile, Australia, Brazil and Zimbabwe have enviable positions as hosts to most of the world’s lithium deposits. The meteoric rise in EV demand and production has numerous EV firms scrambling to make trade arrangements.
The interest of several Chinese firms in African lithium mines was confirmed by Rystad Energy analysts, Susan Zou and Abhishek Murali, in June 2022. Warren Buffett-backed, BYD, has set its eye on acquiring six mines on the continent as it tries to stay in step with surging demand.
Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium has invested in multiple lithium projects worldwide, including purchasing a 50% stake in the Goulamina Lithium Project in Mali, for a mammoth $130 million. The same Rystad report said that Africa would contribute roughly 10% of the globe’s lithium per annum.
In May, Sinomine struck a deal with Chengxin Lithium Group Zimbabwe to fund new projects in the mineral-rich country. According to Reuters, the mega-firm plans to raise a further $450 million for future ventures.
This year Bikita is expected to produce around 1.2 million tons per annum and $2 million once the new spodumene production line is complete.