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Lithium ore fall onto a stockpile. Picture: CARLA GOTTGENS/BLOOMBERG
Lithium ore fall onto a stockpile. Picture: CARLA GOTTGENS/BLOOMBERG

Harare — China’s Sinomine Resource Group on Monday said it has completed the construction of a spodumene concentrate plant at its Zimbabwe lithium mine, as Chinese battery minerals producers ramp up output.

Sinomine bought Bikita Minerals, one of Africa’s oldest lithium mines, for $180m (R3.4bn) in January 2022 and began building a spodumene concentrate plant while expanding the existing petalite plant.

Bikita will produce 300,000 metric tons of spodumene concentrate, which is further processed abroad to produce lithium minerals used in the manufacture of batteries.

The mine will also see its annual petalite output rise to 480,000 metric tons from about 50,000 metric tons previously. Petalite is used in the ceramics and glass industries.

The southern African country hopes its large deposits of lithium will help position itself for an economic boost from the global drive towards battery-powered energy.

Sinomine becomes the third Chinese battery metals producer to start production at recently acquired Zimbabwean lithium projects.

On July 5, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt commissioned its lithium concentrator, which has an annual capacity of 450,000 metric tons, at the Arcadia mine acquired for $422m last year.

In May, Chengxin Lithium Group commissioned a 300,000 metric ton per year lithium concentrator at Sabi Star mine in eastern Zimbabwe.

Chinese firms have spent more than $1bn over the past two years to acquire and develop lithium projects in Zimbabwe, which holds some of the world’s largest hard rock lithium reserves.

London-listed Premier African Minerals has said it will start producing lithium concentrates from its Zulu mine in southern Zimbabwe this year despite a delay caused by a plant defect. The plant has capacity to produce 50,000 metric tons of spodumene concentrate.

Reuters

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