Zimbabwe’s lithium production has witnessed an astonishing 1 300 percent surge since the country’s foray into the battery metal industry five years ago, according to figures released by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion.
This year, lithium output has reached a remarkable 882 000 tonnes, a significant leap from the 63 000 tonnes produced in 2019. It is noteworthy that the 2023 figures only account for production up to October.
The lithium sector has emerged as a major recipient of foreign direct investment, with several Chinese-owned mining companies establishing processing facilities in the country.
This influx of investment has played a crucial role in driving the growth of the lithium industry.
The meteoric rise in lithium production highlights Zimbabwe’s vast potential in the global battery metals market.
It is estimated that the country boasts some of the world’s largest lithium deposits, and its position as a major producer is poised to strengthen in the coming years.
Some analysts believe Zimbabwe could account for 25 percent of the global lithium requirements in the coming years.
This year, Chinese companies put two lithium plants into operation in Zimbabwe, injecting impetus to the African nation’s push to become a major value in the supply chain for lithium batteries.
On July 5, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, through its local unit Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe, commissioned a US$300 million processing plant at its Arcadia lithium mine in Goromonzi near the capital Harare, as it seeks to consolidate its position as one of the top battery material producers in the world.
In 2022, the Chinese company completed a US$422 million acquisition of the Arcadia lithium mine from Australia-listed Prospect Resources with other investors.
Following the completion of the processing plant at its Arcadia mine, PLZ currently has the capacity to process 4,5 million tonnes of lithium ore, and produce 450 000 tonnes of concentrate annually, according to Trevor Barnard, deputy general manager of the company.
According to the first quarter report released by the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency, China is the major source of foreign investment in Zimbabwe, with significant investments registered in the mining sector, particularly the lithium subsector.
“The global boom in renewable energy has seen an increase in the number of investor inquiries into the sector, with the processing of applications underway,” according to the report.
Zimbabwe’s lithium exports have grown tremendously over the years, rising from US1,8 million U.S. dollars in 2018 to US$209 million during the first eight months of the years, Mines and Mining Development Minister Zhemu Soda said recently.
“The demand for materials used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries has increased dramatically,” Zhemu said at a mining conference in Bulawayo, the country’s second-largest city. “Due to this demand, new investors, both local and foreign, have entered the sector to mine, process and export lithium and battery minerals from Zimbabwe.”