Lithium exports to surpass gold, says Zida chief

Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (Zida) chief executive officer Tafadzwa Chinamo

Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (Zida) chief executive officer Tafadzwa Chinamo says lithium can surpass gold as a high forex earner for the country as investor interest keeps growing.

In an interview with NewsDay Business recently, Chinamo stated that there had been a considerable surge in investor interest in lithium this year.

“Investor interest is definitely there as you shall see from the (soon to be released investment) figures. There was a lot of investments, a lot of enquiries, a lot of licences issued by Zida dominated obviously by mining,” he said.

“Lithium is the buzz (word) these days, so a lot of investment is going in there. The trend continued in 2023 if not at a faster pace so there is definitely interest. If we do the entire value chain of lithium, I don’t see why it can’t surpass gold. If you are processing it to those levels or much, much, more then definitely it will be a major export.”

In September 2022, American financial services firm Fitch Solutions named Zimbabwe as one of two emerging lithium producers on the global market as the firm projected global production to quadruple between 2022 and 2031.

The reason behind the increase in lithium interest is that the mineral is a key component of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, at a time when global EV sales are soaring.

Annually, gold generates well over US$1 billion in export revenue, according to official statistics. The leading lithium miners in Zimbabwe are Chinese firms Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Resource Group, and Chengxin Lithium Group, which combined have invested over US$600 million into their operations.

According to the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe, the country is expected to produce 54 500 tonnes, a 9% increase over last year’s 50 000 tonnes.

“Zimbabwe has been producing lithium over the last 60 years. It is estimated that over 11 million tonnes of caesium — petalite resource exist at Bikita, making it the largest known such deposit in the world. Production at peak is about 50 000 tpa (tonnes per annum) lithium superoxide,” read part of the chamber’s analysis into lithium on its website.

According to the South African media mining and industrial markets firm, African Mining Market, Zimbabwe’s lithium deposits are located in Arcadia, Goromonzi and Kamativi.

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