Nqobile Bhebhe in Fort Rixon
THE construction of a multi-million US dollar world class lithium mining plant, which seeks to feed into the future of electric vehicle manufacturing, is gaining momentum in Fort Rixon, Matabeleland South.
Lithium is increasingly becoming a key mineral worldwide with its demand surging for use in the ceramics industry, mobile phone manufacturing and making of automotive batteries.
The Zulu Lithium project, which is being implemented by the United Kingdom-listed Premier African Minerals, is generally regarded as potentially the largest undeveloped lithium bearing pegmatite in Zimbabwe, covering a surface of about 3,5 square kilometres which are prospectively for lithium and tantalum mineralisation.
It produces a rare high value spodumene, a rock that has very high mineralisation of lithium.
Spodumene is a battery grade product which is key for the future of electric cars.
A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited the mining site and observed several steel structures being mounted. Steel platforms where being laid down with a mixture of concrete set to be poured in the next few days. The processing plant has three sections, upper, middle and low parts.
About 80 percent of the upper section has been covered while the middle section is 85 percent complete. At least 55 percent has been covered for the lower section A new multi-purpose administration block is under construction and several units are nearing completion with production set to commence in the first quarter of next year.
In an interview yesterday, project manager Mr Jabulani Chirasha said they are excited with the progress on the ground.
“I can say with confidence that this project is the future of lithium in Zimbabwe, from what we have seen from exploration results.
This place must perform and we have no room for anything except that this project must perform,” he said.
“We are delighted to have such a massive project in this part of the country.
This project is showing marked progress and we are looking forward to seeing this place producing lithium.”
Mr Chirasha said they are still targeting the first quarter to produce spodumene, which is a battery grade product for the future of electric cars.
The project will aid in the US$12 billion mining industry by 2023.
Under the Second Republic, several high impact investments have been made with projects at various stages of implementation across sectors.
However, Mr Chirasha said the slow clearance rate of trucks carrying critical consignments is slowing down progress.
“We are engaging authorities with the view of speeding up the clearance process and get equipment at the site faster. We have several trucks which have been stuck at the Beitbridge Border Post for more than a week awaiting clearance,” he said.
The scope of the project includes a construction of a dam to consist of 31 metres long dam wall from ground level.
In terms of job creation, Mr Chirasha said at the moment their staff complement has not reached envisaged levels since production is not yet in full swing.
He said the four surrounding villages are providing casual workers.
“During the peak period with production levels going up, we envisage to have about 200 casual workers and some of them would be absorbed as permanent staff.”
Recently, Premier African Minerals revealed it secured US$35 million pre-funding to enable the construction and commissioning of a large-scale pilot plant at the project.
Premier African Minerals is a multi-commodity mining and natural resource development company focused on Southern Africa with its RHA Tungsten and Zulu Lithium projects in Zimbabwe.
The company has a diverse portfolio of projects, which include tungsten, rare earth elements, lithium and tantalum in Zimbabwe, encompassing brownfield projects with near-term production potential to grass-roots exploration.