SANDAWANA Mines in Mberengwa, Midlands Province, is now valued at US$3 billion from US$5 million after new owner, Kuvimba Mining House that acquired the multi-commodity resource asset in 2019, made massive investments in exploration and operations.
KMH, which in recent years has been taking over closed mines and industrial operations and resuscitating them, is owned by various entities controlled by the Government with 65 percent stake while 35 percent is private investors, has interest in special minerals, energy minerals and base metals.
Apart from owning Sandawana Mines, KMH owns entities such as Great Dyke Investments, Shamva Gold Mine, Freda Rebecca Gold Mine, Jena Mines and the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange listed-Bindura Nickel Corporation, among others.
Sandawana whose history dates back to 1955 when emeralds were first discovered in Zimbabwe, has a mining lease and claim holdings covering a 21-kilometre strip along the Mweza Mountain Range.
The 3 882-hectare concession is also rich in vast mineral resources that include tantalite, mica, and gold.
The mine, which exchanged hands over its long history, has been an important producer of emeralds for 40 years before production was suspended in 2010 due to working capital challenges and a reduction in the emerald resources.
Some of the mine’s previous owners include Rio Tinto and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), a mining arm of the Government established in 1982 through an Act of Parliament.
Following the acquisition by KMH which has so far injected US$56 million towards reviving operations and exploring for lithium and other mineral resources, Sandawana has been revalued at between US$2,5 billion and US$3 billion.
Briefing journalists during a media tour of the mine on Wednesday, Sandawana general manager Godwin Gambiza, said they have embarked on a four-phased exploration programme that is almost complete.
“What is also important is to indicate to you, although this is still highly confidential, is that based on the resource alone, the total valuation for Sandawana Mines sits at US$2,5 billion to US$3 billion. Before Kuvimba took over the valuation was at US$5 million.
“But the investment that Kuvimba has done in terms of the exploration work, the 54 000 metres that we have drilled as part of Phase 1 exploration, the 374 holes that we have drilled as part of exploration resulting in 18 to 20 million tonnes of our ore now in measured category, the balance in indicated and a bit of it as inferred, has increased rapidly that value of Sandawana in terms of valuation to between US$2,5 billion and US$3 billion,” he said.
Exploration at Sandawana began in January this year and drilling will be completed this month. Under Phase 1 of the programme, Sandawana is targeting a resource of up to 30 million tonnes of lithium ore.
Gambiza said Sandawana is the first lithium operation in the country to have its resource in measured category and so far 18 million tonnes of lithium ore can be confirmed as in measured category.
“Phase 2 of the exploration, we are projecting an additional 30 million tonnes of lithium ore, as we go to Phase 3 and 4 we then expect our resource to go up to 200 million tonnes and that will position Sandawana as the biggest lithium mine in Zimbabwe. So far those (local lithium miners) who have released their information on exploration, the leading one is sitting on a deposit of 72 million at an average grade of 1,06 percent lithium oxide.
“In our case we will be around 200 million at an average grade of 1,4 percent lithium oxide which means again in terms of the grade we are leading,” he said.
“If we were to have a cut-off of our grade, at around 0,5 percent that would mean that our deposit would slightly come down to just below 200 million but the average grade would go up to around 1,6 percent which again positions us in terms of quality of lithium tonnage in the country.”
In recent years, lithium has become a much-sought after mineral across the globe as the automotive industry is moving towards electric cars, which, among other valuables use lithium ion batteries.
Zimbabwe, believed to be hosting Africa’s largest lithium deposits and the fifth world’s biggest deposits, is positioning for an economic boom from the global drive towards a shift to battery-powered machines.
As Kuvimba, Gambiza said they are committed to raw materials beneficiation and value addition and thus feasibility studies for a 4,5 million tonnes per annum beneficiation plant are underway.
“We are working together with other partners that have also shown interest in cooperating with us to set up a beneficiation and value addition plant here at Sandawana in the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.
Feasibility studies for the construction of a 60MW solar plant are underway. It is hoped that electricity produced from the solar plant whose construction requires US$100 million will also be fed into the national grid benefiting the local communities and the country at large.
“We have carried out a grid impact assessment study and we are going to increase the power requirements for this mine from the current 3MVA to 20MVA.
“We are going to upgrade the power infrastructure starting from the Tokwe main substation coming to the Zvishavane substation moving to the Mberengwa switching station, then finally setting up another substation here at the mine which will be a 20MVA plant.
Gambiza said the resuscitation of operations at Sandawana would also see greater development in the Mberengwa District with increased social, economic, and physical infrastructure.
At present, local communities primarily rely on geographically distant urban centres to access basic essential services.
“The resuscitation of the Sandawana Mines will ignite a hive of economic and social activities for both young and older locals, with the resuscitation of local shopping centres and inward migration of young people across the province,” he said.
So far, the mine has employed over 1 000 local people in the last three months after capital injection from KMH and greater employment is expected given the various projects Sandawana intends to roll-out.
Other capital projects on the cards include the construction and development of a primary health care centre in Mberengwa and a referral hospital for surrounding clinics.
Gambiza said his company is negotiating with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to capacitate the Sandawana Mine Clinic for locals.
“In addition, Kuvimba is also engaging national health partners to co-locate specialist services at the health care centre in order to eliminate the travel burden from sick people in the region. The planned health interventions will also establish training facilities for local health professionals and enhance access to health care technology,” he said.