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Zimbabwe: Four Major Firms Plan Lithium Processing Plants

Tuesday, 21 May 2024 11:49
Zimbabwe: Four Major Firms Plan Lithium Processing Plants

(Ecofin Agency) - Africa’s top lithium producer, Zimbabwe, attracted over a billion dollars in investments for new mines over the past three years. The government now urges companies to establish local factories to process the mineral.

Four major lithium producers active in Zimbabwe have submitted to the government projects to set up lithium concentrate processing plants in the country. Reuters reported the news on May 20 quoting Deputy Mines Minister Polite Kambamura. 

"They are coming forward with plans but these are long term plans which we are receiving […]. We are not going to end on concentrates, we want batteries to be manufactured here,”said Kambamura without naming the firms. 

In recent years, several companies have invested in the country’s lithium industry. These include Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Resource Group, Chengxin Lithium Group, and Tsingshan Group, which are Chinese. 

Harare plans to leverage these investments to develop a local industry for the electric vehicle battery market which experiences a boom spurred by energy transition. Ultimately, the government seeks to revitalize the economy which has been struggling for a decade.

Bolstering Local Processing

In November 2023, the government urged firms that export lithium concentrate to China for processing to submit plans for local transformation. Initially, the local authorities set the deadline for submission in March 2024, but two months were later added.

However, last year, Huayou Cobalt revealed that several issues impair Zimbabwe’s ambition for local lithium processing. These include insufficient capital, and an unreliable supply of electricity, natural gas, and sulfuric acid. To achieve its goal, Harare considers strict measures like banning unprocessed lithium exports, thus emulating Indonesia's mineral development strategy.

Indeed, Indonesia banned the export of various minerals, including nickel, since 2014. According to a May 2024 report from the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), these measures helped raise the number of nickel smelters in the country from 2, pre-ban, to 43 in 2023.

Let's note however that Indonesia produces half of the world’s nickel output and this favored its approach to boost local processing. Zimbabwe does not hold a similar position in the global lithium industry, which implies finding its own way of reaching its goal. 

Emiliano Tossou



Public Management

ECOFIN AGENCY offers a selection of articles translated from AGENCE ECOFIN. Founded in 2011, Agence Ecofin is a leader in Francophone Pan-African economic news, particularly in West and Central Africa. The agency publishes daily news on nine African economic sectors: Public Management, Finance, ICT, Agribusiness, Energy, Mining, Transport & Logistics, Communication, and Training.

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