Bikita Minerals will export its first ever shipment of spodumene concentrate this weekend, the first output from a new plant commissioned in July.
Global metals giant Sinomine bought Bikita last year in a US$180 million deal with African Metals Management Services and German investor Wilfried Pabst’s Southern African Metals and Minerals, the Mauritius-registered companies that held a combined 74% of the mine.
Before the transaction, Bikita had for 50 years produced petalite, a lithium concentrate widely used in the ceramics industry. This is the first time that the mine is exporting spodumene, one of the ingredients used in batteries.
In July, Bikita Minerals announced that it had completed construction of two plants; one with annual capacity to produce 480,000 tonnes of petalite, and another to produce 300,000 tonnes of chemical-grade spodumene concentrate, used widely by battery makers.
“Bikita Minerals to dispatch its first consignment of spodumene concentrates on Sunday. The target is to ship 7,000 metric tonnes,” Bikita announced Friday.
Most of the spodumene mined around the world is shipped to China, which has most of the global refining capacity. The spodumene exported to China is then transformed into lithium chemical salts, which are further processed and combined with other inputs to make lithium batters.
Bikita’s exports follow debut output from Arcadia Mine, owned by Huayou Cobalt, which sent out its first exports in April, an initial 30,000 tonnes of concentrates.
In May, Shengxin commissioned its own plant, Sabi Star in Buhera, with capacity to produce 300,000 tones of concentrates per year.
Zimbabwe hopes lithium exports will help the economy boost forex earnings. However, lithium prices are falling globally, with lithium carbonate prices down 75% over the past half-year, according to a report this week by S&P Global. The drop is due to weaker demand in China for electric vehicles and surplus stocks of lithium. However, analysts at Fitch expect prices to rise, forecasting a global lithium shortage in 2025.