Prospect exports US$40m lithium

Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe (PLZ), owned by Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, says it has exported 30 000 tonnes of lithium concentrate valued at US$40 million.

PROSPECT Lithium Zimbabwe (PLZ), owned by Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, says it has exported 30 000 tonnes of lithium concentrate valued at US$40 million since April this year as the company seeks to increase production and processing capacity.

The mining firm, which launched a US$300 million processing plant on Wednesday, said this year the main focus was on infrastructural development and agriculture, reducing environmental footprint, and boosting health and education in the communities.

“PLZ started exporting lithium concentrate at the end of April 2023 and since then, we have exported close to 30 000t. This equates to US$40 million in revenue generation into Zimbabwe,” PLZ chairperson George Fang said during the commissioning of the plant.

“As we push ourselves to increase production and processing capacity of close to 90%, this will translate to more funds coming into the country.

“Our investment in Zimbabwe thrusts the country on the global map of renewable energy and technology value chains.”

Fang said the event was a culmination of enormous collective efforts which began in late 2021 when Huayou Cobalt acquired the lithium mine from Prospect Resources of Australia.

He said the company embarked on the journey in April 2022 when its parent company, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, acquired the PLZ asset and began building the plant for processing of hard rock lithium mineral resources.

“The construction work began in May 2022 and by January 2023 we had finished the construction phase. That, in itself, was a record. We salute the workers and management for the diligent work that has resulted in the wonderful results we see today,” Fang said.

“This is a brave new journey that the company is embarking on as a producer of new energy materials for the global market at an opportune time that the world is undergoing transformation in the energy sector and related technologies.

“As a member of the global Huayou family, we are keenly aware of our mission of becoming a market leader and fit within the overall philosophy and ethic of the company.”

Fang said over the past two decades, the parent company had become a multinational corporation with a revenue base of more than US$48 billion and market value of more than US$100 billion, ranking among the top 500 enterprises in China.

“Over the past year, we have striven to contribute to the local economy and society, even before we started operations. At inception, we called on local communities to take up employment opportunities.

“This prioritisation resulted in hundreds of people being employed from local villages and wards in Goromonzi district of Mashonaland East province, while more and more people with varying skills came from all over the country. Our project employed about 2 000 people during the construction stage, and is set to employ hundreds more when production goes full scale,” he said.

PLZ deputy general manager Trevor Barnard told NewsDay Business that the company was undertaking feasibility studies on further processing.

This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the company and other lithium miners should go beyond producing lithium concentrates and focus on battery grade lithium.

“We are not at the battery stage yet, it will take a regional approach from quite a few mines coming together to do beneficiation or processing,” he said.

Chinese miners have recently been targeting Zimbabwe’s lithium mines, which hold a great deal of promise given that most of the lithium reserves in the country are still unexplored.  It is believed that China owns the largest reserves in Africa.

Within the past seven months, Shenzhen Chengxin Lithium Group and Sinomine Resource Group have also invested in Zimbabwe’s lithium mines.

Rising demand for environmentally-friendly transport is boosting sales of electric vehicles and the lithium-ion batteries that power them.

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