The government will give miners that had stockpiled lithium ore before last year’s export ban six months to sell it, according to draft regulations.
Zimbabwe last year banned the export of unprocessed lithium to force local refining, ending a rush by small-scale miners to mine lithium ore and sell it to foreign buyers. But Henrietta Rushwaya’s Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), which represents small-scale miners, pleaded with President Emmerson Mnangagwa for a temporary window to sell their stockpiles.
Now, according to a draft law, the government is yielding to those demands and giving those miners time to sell off their stocks.
“Within 30 days after promulgation of this Statutory Instrument, all the affected people shall register their stocks with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development which shall verify that the ores were mined before the SI 213/22 came into force,” the draft regulation says.
“The affected people shall be given a one-off permit valid for 6 months after which they will not be able to sell their stocks.”
In a March 10 letter to Mnangagwa, Rushwaya had said some of her ZMF members faced ruin after the ban left them stuck with lithium stockpiles.
“Livelihoods of small-scale miners involved in mining base minerals have been negatively impacted by the ban since the trading of the minerals was halted,” says Rushwaya.
Meeting chiefs in Bulawayo last week, Mnangagwa had vowed that no raw lithium would leave the country.
What is raw lithium?
The rules define “unbeneficiated lithium” as any lithium that has not been processed to 3% lithium for spodumene and 2.5% for petalite and lepidolite. This matches the processing levels of investors such as Huayou Cobalt, Premier Africa Minerals, Sabi Star and Bikita Minerals. The companies are at various levels of building processing plants.
Under the regulations, such will get Approved Processing Plant (APP) licenses to process lithium. Miners will also need licenses to move ore, as long as it is going to licensed processors. Processors can also be allowed to buy ore from smaller miners, under a Lithium Ore Purchase License (LOPL).
It will be an offence for anyone to buy lithium ore without an LOPL, to sell ore to a customer who does not hold a LOPL, to transport lithium ore without an ore movement permit, or to process lithium without an APP.
Adds the regulation: “All players in the lithium sector whether miners or holders of APP shall submit a summary of monthly reconciliations of ore movements to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.”