Three Chinese energy companies have snapped up controlling stake in Zimbabwean lithium mines in the past four months, as China, the world’s biggest and fastest Electric Vehicles (EV) market, increasingly gravitates towards Africa to diversify the supply of lithium.
The mineral is one of the most sought after commodity used in the booming manufacture of EVs.
Chengxin Lithium Group opened up the spate of acquisitions last November with the attainment of a 51 percent interest in Max Mind Investments’ Sabi Star Lithium Mine in eastern Zimbabwe at a cost of US$77m.
Chengxin Lithium at the time told African Business that the investment in Zimbabwe, “an attractive investment destination for Chinese new energy companies’ will increase the leading lithium compound producer’s lithium resource reserve, guarantee the company with resource supply for capacity expansion, especially abroad, and further enhance its competitiveness in the industry of lithium new energy material.
Max Mind owns 40 mining claims of rare metal ore blocks in Zimbabwe, with a total surface of 2,637 hectares. Five of them have a total ore resource of 6.883m tonnes while the remaining 35 mining claims are in exploration and at the early work stage.
Lithium-ion battery producer Zhejian Huayou Cobalt followed in December by purchasing an 87 percent stake in Zimbabwe’s Arcadia Lithium Project for US$528m from Australia’s Prospect Resources.
On February 8, the Sinomine Resource Group announced that it had shelled out US$180m to acquire 100 percent of African Metals Management Services and Southern African Metals and Minerals, which jointly own 74 percent of Bikita Minerals.
Zimbabwe possesses Africa’s largest lithium reserves and the fifth largest globally but the resource has remained largely untapped due to a lack of investment.
Lithium has become a vital raw material required in the transition to a green economy.
Lithium ion batteries are commonly utilised in EV manufacturing and in electric devices or solar panels to store excess solar energy.
Battery metal specialists say the drive for clean technology initiatives and off-grid power storage has created an enormous demand for lithium batteries and electric vehicles in recent years. Demand is expected to accelerate rapidly.
Analysts say the deals provide precious opportunities for Zimbabwe to get involved in the crucial value chain matrix of lithium battery industries not only for the EV industry, but for other renewable energy projects that also need huge energy storage facilities.