Premier African Minerals reports it has finished building a lithium processing pilot plant at its Zulu Mine at Fort Rixon and expects to start production of spodumene concentrate shortly.
Spodumene is a lithium ore with a high concentration of lithium, a key component in the production of batteries for electric vehicles.
The plant has capacity to produce nearly 50,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate per year, and was partly funded through a US$35 million offtake deal agreed last year with CanMax Technologies (formerly Suzhou TA&A).
“We expect to produce spodumene, a lepidolite mica rich concentrate and a tantalum rich concentrate, late this week provided that final formal outstanding approvals from certain Zimbabwean authorities are received,” Premier CEO George Roach said on Wednesday.
“I am personally excited at this prospect of so significant a company-changing moment in the history of our Company and am somewhat in awe when I consider that in September 2022 this was virgin bush.”
According to Roach, the company is attracting interest from other lithium developers and has started talks towards expanding production.
“Premier has received a number of requests from other mining companies already well established in Zimbabwe to discuss our intentions in regard to the future of Zulu for either future offtake and/or direct equity investment into Zulu,” says Roach.
“At the same time, Premier is in discussions intended to see a quick increase in production and a broadening of the product base as the focus of production at the Zulu plant has only been the production of spodumene.”
Zimbabwe holds some of the world’s biggest hard-rock lithium deposits and has recently attracted about US$700 million in investment from several Chinese firms, including CanMax, which also bought a 13.38% stake in Premier last year, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Resource Group and Chengxin Lithium Group.
On March 22, Huayou said it had started trial production from its Arcadia lithium project near Harare. Huayou said the US$300 million Arcadia plant has capacity to process 4.5 million tonnes of lithium ore at Arcadia, producing 50,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent lithium concentrate.