Kuvimba CEO talks strategy: Investors are lining up for lithium assets. But we want partners, not buyers

Kuvimba Resources says investors are queueing up for access to its lithium assets, but the company does not plan to sell its mines. Instead, it is is working on structures to accommodate investors keen to develop its resources.

The company, owned by the Mutapa sovereign wealth fund, estimates it has a lithium ore resource of 38 million tonnes at Sandawana. The resource has sparked investor interest, acting Chief Executive Officer Trevor Barnard says.

“It’s not just China, but from other nationalities as well,” Barnard says, according to Bloomberg. “We are working on a structure that can accommodate a number of possible investors and those investors will be able to take a portion of the resource that is available at Sandawana and develop that.”

Cluff Resources, owned by British energy tycoon Algy Cluff, is one of the investors to publicly show interest in Sandawana. Cluff has met Kuvimba, but Barnard says his company is also talking to other potential investors. Barnard says Kuvimba has no plans to sell any of its operations. Strategy is currently focused on developing current operations, Barnard says.

“We are certainly not looking to sell our assets. We aim to develop these assets in partnership with potential investors. This is our strategy moving forward,” he says.

Lithium prices fell by up to 80% from their 2022 peak, leaving many stalled projects in their wake. This also slowed down investment into new mines, including in Zimbabwe. To make itself more attractive to potential investors, Kuvimba is doing more exploration, and expects to update to a lithium resource of 100 million tonnes, Barnard says. To develop the resource and build a processing plant, Kuvimba would need up to $300 million.

Kuvimba CEO Trevor Barnard

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The company has a diverse portfolio of mining assets, including platinum and gold. Kuvimba is not looking at buying any new assets for now, as it focuses on developing what it already has. “That is our focus. We are focused on putting those assets into production, becoming cash positive, and then look at further acquisitions,” Barnard explains.

Kuvimba produces over 120,000 ounces of gold per year from its mines, which include Freda Rebecca, Shamva and other smaller operations.

“At the moment, gold is the crown jewel of the business. We are the largest gold producer in Zimbabwe. But we are working hard by diversifying our production mineral base to ensure that we have a diversified portfolio going forward,” Barnard says.

The company is still keen on developing Great Dyke Investments in Darwendale, which was to be Zimbabwe’s biggest platinum mine but stalled in 2022 after Russian partners Vi Holdings exited. Says Barnard: “We have defined that resource very, very well, so we understand the size and quality of that resource. It’s one of the largest in Zimbabwe. We are looking at different options to develop that.  One of the options is a short-term open-cast development of that mine so we can get into production at the earliest possible time. We are talking about a period which is less than a year.”

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