Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Business Reporter
DIVERSIFIED mining group, Premier African Minerals Chief executive officer, Mr George Roach says Government is delighted with rapid progress at the Zulu Lithium plant in Fort Rixon coupled with heightened interest from scores of potential investors seeking to partner with the firm.
Prospective investors are focusing on energy supply relating to setting up of solar plants and lining the massive plant on the national electricity grid, he noted.
Speaking during a StockBox chat, a media platform for listed companies to connect with investors on Wednesday evening, Mr Roach said he would be surprised if their project was not generating interest from potential investors.
He said the assembling process of major plant components is complete and they are ready to start production.
“I have very strong interests from various people wanting to establish a solar plant.
There are strong interests from a number of companies, some strong direct approaches and this should not be a surprise or a secret to anybody,” said Mr Roach in an interview monitored by Business Chronicle.
“I would have been very surprised if there were no other strong interests. The time frame in which we established Zulu, the only alternative that we had was diesel generation and it was the right thing.
“There is going to be solar, grid link and this will benefit Zulu,” he added.
The huge interests buttress the conducive business climate obtaining in the country.
Last year, the mining firm secured US$35 million pre-funding to enable the construction and commissioning of a large-scale pilot plant at the project.
Suzhou TA&A Ultra Clean Technology company, a China-based company principally engaged in the research, development, production and sale of anti-static ultra-clean products provided the funding.
Asked about the support coming from the Government, he said it was re-assuring.
“When you talk to them (Government officials), they are delighted, I do believe the President intends to visit the mine and attend the opening ceremony.
“The ministry of mines has similarly indicated that he (President Mnangagwa) wishes to attend. Many of the local political people are known to us and they have visited.
“The local chief is busy preparing a special opening ceremony this weekend. So a lot of people are pleased with it,” he noted.
On the impact to the local community he said apart from employment, the business community is benefiting immensely.
“We employ a huge number of local community members and they are having difficulties coming to terms with what has happened here and there have been interesting spin-offs. A local shopkeeper told me he is delighted, he says his turnover has increased exponentially.
“We have 200 people we employ and the mining contractor will probably have another 100 plus. It’s a landmark in the environment we are in for the community and country respectively.”
Mr Roach expressed satisfaction on the progress that has been made since the ground-breaking ceremony last September.
“The plant is complete in terms of all major components.
“The entire crushing circuit is in a state of power on in terms of floatation circuit, water is on to the plant.
“We have first ore exposed in the pit and we are very comfortable with what we see in terms of exposed ore body. It looks better than we anticipated.
“Generally speaking, in terms of where the plant is and how it’s progressing, I am very comfortable and pleased with it. We have been saying for some time that we anticipate first spodumene production in Q1 and I know it’s pretty close to the end of Q1 at the moment, so is the plant pretty close to be able to produce
“To be frank I think right now there is every chance that we are going to hit what we have been saying that it is more likely that we will hit the first spodumene before the end of Q1.”
Mr Roach indicated that he will be in a position next week to provide further updates.
“All of us are working extremely hard at the moment. This target that I have set for production before the end of Q1 is realistic.
It’s all in the final stages at the moment.”
The project is regarded as potentially the largest undeveloped lithium-bearing pegmatite in Zimbabwe, covering a surface of about 3,5 square kilometres, which is prospectively for lithium and tantalum mineralisation.
The Zulu Lithium project is set to produce a rare high value spodumene, a rock that has very high mineralisation of lithium.
Spodumene is a battery-grade product that is key for the future of electric cars.
Due to the emerging electric motor vehicle industry, there is increased international demand for the lithium mineral known as “white oil”, which is used for manufacturing batteries.