Bikita Minerals loses fight over ‘stolen’ lithium ore

Bikita Minerals dragged Aurion Resources, the officer in charge ZRP CID Flora and Fauna Unit in Masvingo and the officer commanding ZRP Masvingo province to the High Court over the ore.

Lithium producer Bikita Minerals has lost a case in which it had approached the High Court seeking an interdict against Aurion Resources over some lithium ore it claimed had been stolen from its mine.

Bikita Minerals dragged Aurion Resources, the officer in charge ZRP CID Flora and Fauna Unit in Masvingo and the officer commanding ZRP Masvingo province to the High Court over the ore.

However, Justice Sunsley Zisengwe in his determination said Bikita Minerals in its draft order did not state that second tests be done in South Africa.

He said Bikita Minerals sought the indulgence of the court to make the amendments to its draft order with the insertion of South Africa as the exclusive source of the second tests.

“Such a wholesale attempt to amend the terms of the order sought can only mean one thing. That such a course of action was never in the contemplation of the parties when they agreed to a second opinion in respect of the lithium ore samples.

“Ultimately, therefore, I do not believe the applicant has established a clear right to have the samples sent exclusively to South Africa for a second opinion.

“A second opinion has already been procured albeit one not favourable to the applicant. The application, therefore, stands to be dismissed on that basis,” Justice Zisengwe ruled.

He also dismissed the application for the interdict on account of Bikita Minerals’ failure to establish a clear right.

“Even if he had established a clear right the application would still have failed on the basis of the failure by the applicant to show absence of an alternative remedy.

“Accordingly, the application for a final interdict is hereby dismissed with applicant meeting first respondent’s costs of suit,” the judge ruled.

The core of the matter was a dispute over the origins and ownership of a consignment of lithium ore seized by police on May 8 last year.

Bikita Minerals and Aurion Resources are both into lithium ore mining while the latter also sources lithium ore from small-scale miners.

According to the application, Bikita Minerals on May 5 last year, received information from the police that some lithium ore suspected to have been extracted from its mine, was at Aurion Resources’ premises.

The police seized the lithium ore, three days later, on suspicions that it had been stolen.

An agreement was made between the parties and the police that samples be subjected to metallurgical testing by a government assayer to establish if the lithium ore belonged to Bikita Minerals.

The test compared the seized lithium ore with samples originating from the Bikita Minerals and Aurion Resources mines.

There are three types of lithium ore namely Petalite, Spodumene and Lepidolite.

A metallurgical technician Netsai Makanga from the government’s Department of Metallurgy conducted the tests and the results were not supporting Bikita Minerals’ claim.

Criminal proceedings were also instituted against the person who was found in possession of the ore on the basis that the mineral had been stole.

However, the court ordered that the ore be released to Aurion Resources but Bikita Minerals challenged the release opting for a second test.

The second tests were then conducted by Glenda Farirepi, the chief chemist at the Department of Metallurgy with the results indicating that the ore did not belong to Bikita Minerals.

Bikita Minerals, however, insisted that the second tests did not constitute a second report arguing that they were obtained from the same institution.

The miner suggested that the second tests be done in South Africa saying that the purported second opinion did not qualify as a second opinion.

However, Aurion Resources challenged the move arguing that the timeline for the obtainment of a report from South Africa could not be met because of the red-tape involved in government systems which required Cabinet authority for samples to be taken abroad for analysis.

Aurion Resources insisted that it owns the disputed lithium ore arguing that Bikita Minerals filed a police report under the mistaken belief that the ore belonged to it.

It also argued that Bikita Minerals was constantly changing goal posts in the sense that what was agreed was that a second opinion be obtained to determine the origins of the disputed lithium ore.


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