Zimbabwe aims for 10% global lithium output

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
1 March 2018

Zimbabwe has announced a target to produce 10% of the world's lithium output in the next four years.

Minister of mines Winston Chitando made the announcement during a mining investment conference in Harare, according to the state-owned Herald newspaper.

Global demand for lithium, used in the production of batteries, is expected to increase as automakers turn to electric vehicles and governments promote more renewable energy to hit emissions targets.

Chitando said the government had already signed a deal with a foreign investor to exploit lithium deposits worth up to $1.7bn.

Zimbabwe is now "poised to become the major producer of lithium in the world", said Chitando, according to the Herald.

"We are looking at achieving production of at least 10% in the next four years of world lithium. And certainly it should go to plus or minus 20%."

He said the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation was involved in a $10m resource quantification exercise in Kamativi.

The announcement comes after president Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country was "open for business" following the departure of Robert Mugabe.

The government is also keen to set up a lithium battery manufacturing plant, said the Herald, while a 5% export tax on unprocessed lithium, coming into force in January 2019, is designed to promote value addition.

In 2017 Zimbabwe was the fifth largest producer of lithium in world with 1,000 megatonnes (MT), according to the US Geographical Survey, behind Australia (18,700 MT), Chile (14,100 MT), Argentina (5,500 MT) and China (3,000 MT). Global production rose 13% compared to 2016 to 43,000 MT.

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