After a ban on raw lithium exports left her associates sitting on stockpiles of ore, Henrietta Rushwaya wants the Zimbabwe government to reverse the law.
Calling herself the President’s “most loyal miner”, Rushwaya, who heads the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation (ZMF), has written a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa saying many of her members were stuck with lithium ore that they cannot sell.
Last year, ZMF members parcelled out claims at Sandawana Mine, owned by Kuvimba Mining House, stacking up for themselves lithium ore from the mine, once one of the country’s biggest emerald operations. But the miners were soon moved out of the site, and government responded in December with a ban on the export of ore.
This has left many of those miners stranded.
“The unexpected ban has prejudiced standing off-take agreements between miners and international buyers some of whom had taken loans from their respective countries to finance trade in these minerals,” Rushwaya writes in her March 10 letter to Mnangagwa.
Rushwaya adds: “Some miners have found themselves stuck with huge stockpiles thus locking cash flows and affecting operations.”
Lithium processing plans
The ban on lithium exporters did not affect large-scale lithium investors in the country, who are already building lithium processing plants. Huayou Cobalt last year began building a US$300 million plant after taking over Arcadia Lithium Mine, Chengxin is spending US$130 million on Sabi Mine, while Sinomine is investing US$200 million after its US$180 million takeover of Bikita Minerals last year.
Formal miners support the regulation.
“Speaking personally, I support the regulation,” George Roach, whose Premier African Minerals is completing a pilot plant at Fort Rixon, told newZWire in January. “Premier supports the further beneficiation of spodumene from a concentrate in-country and is actively engaged in planning such further beneficiation for spodumene produced at Zulu.”
Tolling arrangements would allow smaller miners to feed their ore to the new plans, but Rushwaya says miners cannot wait.
“Establishment of processing plants takes between 6 months to 12 months to commission. The current market for lithium is outside Zimbabwe and companies need to export the mineral to raise capital to build the plants,” she says.
“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.
She signs off: “We stand guided by your wise counsel Your Excellency. Thank You. Your most loyal Miner.”
Her appeal may be a poser to Mnangagwa’s government, going into the election, as small-scale miners are a major support base for ZANU PF. But speaking at a meeting with traditional chiefs on Wednesday, Mnangagwa insisted that no unprocessed lithium would leave the country.
“Beneficiation of lithium increases value, builds new competencies and creates more jobs,” he told them.
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